A promising chef who ‘achieved his dream job’ died after his car hit ice and left the road.
Thomas Drewery, known to his friends as ‘Grimmy’, 21, of Arthur Road, Horsham, was discovered by his friend when he didn’t turn up for work at South Lodge Hotel.
Thomas was driving home from his girlfriend’s house after a shift on January 23, when his grey Ford Focus went into a field off the B2110 near Truckers Ghyll, near Handcross at around 12.30am.
An inquest into his death was held at County Hall North in Horsham on September 11.
A statement by Thomas’s family said: “We were all immensely proud of Thomas and what he had achieved.
“He was a dearly loved son and stepson and he will always be with us.”
Thomas moved from Lincolnshire to follow his dream of becoming a Michelin starred chef and had become good friends with his colleagues at The Pass restaurant where he worked.
The statement continued: “He was very happy and was keen to go back to work. He enjoyed his time at home seeing his family bit his new life in Horsham was drawing him back.”
Thomas’s friends and girlfriend became concerned when he didn’t turn up for work the next day.
In a statement, Edward Wright, who worked and lived with Thomas said: “It was really out of character. I started thinking the worst.
“I went out briefly to look for him. I drove along the Brighton Road, I was getting increasingly worried.”
Mr Wright eventually discovered Thomas’s car in a field off the road at around 11am, and called the emergency services.
A post mortem found no traces of drugs or alcohol and determined Thomas died of head injuries.
PC Steven Ashby, forensic collision investigator at Sussex Police said he could not work out the speed Thomas was driving but said the road conditions were likely to be icy as it was a cold night.
He said there was no evidence to suggest Thomas had been distracted – but did not rule out he might have lost control of the car after avoiding an animal.
The windscreen was smashed and the roof of the car had come off in the bushes.
The court heard there was excess water on the road from a burst water pipe and blocked drains, which were fixed after the accident.
Speaking in January, Matt Gillan, head chef at The Pass, paid tribute to his friend.
He said: “Grimmy worked hard and enthusiastically, and did so with a cheeky smile on his face. We are all deeply saddened to lose him but so proud of what he achieved while he was with us.”
Recording a conclusion of accidental death, Chris Wilkinson, assistant coroner for West Sussex, said: “In my view Thomas was a promising and upcoming chef who had achieved his dream job and very much loved his life. He will be sadly missed by a very supportive group of friends and a very loving family.”
Mr Wilkinson described Thomas’s death as a ‘tragic accident’ which occurred as a result of the weather conditions that evening.
He added: “There may have been black ice at the scene which would have been very difficult if not impossible to have seen in the early hours of the morning.”
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