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Family left ‘devastated’ after University of Leeds graduate killed in car crash

Juliana Keshishian died due to the driver travelling ‘too fast’ for wet conditions

A University of Leeds graduate died in a car accident after the vehicle she was travelling in aquaplaned, an inquest heard.

Juliana Keshishian died following an accident which occurred off the B6451, in Stainburn Forest, during bad weather in June 2020.

At an inquest into the circumstances surrounding the crash, North Yorkshire Police said the driver was going “too fast for the road conditions and layout”, The Yorkshire Post reports.

Juliana was in a blue Vauxhall Corsa with two friends, also from Leeds University, when it skidded off the road, went airborne and hit a tree.

Jack Garnett, who was driving, and his front seat passenger were rescued from the vehicle by passing motorists, but Juliana was pronounced dead at the scene, after suffering several serious injuries.

Garnett said the three had enjoyed a day out at Ilkley, Pateley Bridge and Brimham Rocks, before heading home. Travelling at around 50mph “in horrible weather”, he lost control of the Corsa when it hit a patch of standing water on a bend.

“I remember it all, it’s stayed with me since – the aquaplaning, steering through the road and the flip – I was conscious the entire time,” he described. “I remember the silence when the car took off.”

The 27-year-old told the inquest that there was “nothing I could have done” to stop the car from aquaplaning and that “I didn’t believe I was going too fast for the road at the time.”

North Yorkshire Police said that while Garnett was not going over the speed limit of 60mph for the winding, rural road, he wasn’t driving in a manner that was appropriate for the road conditions at the time, and that “he lost control as a result.”

The force also said that he braked when the car started to aquaplane, instead of easing off the accelerator and turning the steering wheel into the direction of the skid.

In response to the findings of the investigation, Garnett said: “I can see how if I had gone slower it could have been avoided. But I wouldn’t have known what speed to have been driving at for it to have been possible for that not to happen.”

Juliana’s family described her as an “amazing, loving joyful, caring, kind, gentle and humble” person who would have made “a substantial contribution to society.”

In a statement, they said they were devastated by her death, adding that she was a dedicated student, who had only recently achieved a first class degree in Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Leeds.

The 22-year-old, who grew up in Watford, had also volunteered around the world; during one trip she travelled to Greece, to help Afghan refugees at a camp. She was also a volunteer at Leeds University’s student helpline.

“She was a naturally caring person, always nurturing towards others, regardless of their cultural background, race or age,” her family said.

“We will forever miss her adorable company, that bubbly personality, cheeky demeanour, lust for life, her joy and so many other qualities.

“Her tragic passing has shattered our hope for the future and sadly invaded almost every living aspect of our lives.”

The coroner proclaimed a verdict of death by road traffic collision.