A DEPRESSED man who drove his car into a gas sub-station downed a fatal dose of hydrochloric acid minutes after emerging uninjured from the wreckage, an inquest heard.
Alan Williams's Fiesta sped across a field and ploughed into the sub-station near Hadrian Road in Jarrow on the morning of September 26 last year.
Despite the car becoming embedded in the brick building, Mr Williams, 62, was unhurt.
He left his car and walked the short distance back to his home in nearby Simonside View. There he went into his garden shed and drank a quantity of cleaning fluid, which contained hydrochloric acid.
A short time later, police officers arrived at the property in relation to the crash and discovered Mr Williams, apparently drunk, in the shed.
They arrested the father-of-two on suspicion of criminal damage.
After he was placed in a police car, officers noticed he was breathless and he was transferred by ambulance to South Tyneside District Hospital, where he died later the same day.
Maria Fletcher was cleaning her mother's front windows in Leamside, Jarrow, when she saw Mr Williams's car hurtle towards the sub-station.
She told the inquest: "I saw this car travelling at tremendous speed, I thought it was a joyrider.
"It crashed at full speed into the building and then reversed and went into it again. It was unbelievable."
Pc David Martin, of South Tyneside Motor Patrol, said he believed Mr Williams's intention was to take his own life.
South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney read a written statement from Hazel Williams, the dead man's wife of 35 years.
She revealed her husband had been suffering from depression in the months before his death and was on sick leave from his job as a driver with North East Ambulance Service.
Mr Williams had been diagnosed Prozac, had spent a period in the district hospital's Bede Wing and had taken an overdose.
The inquest continues.