A SOUTHAMPTON man died when his girlfriend fell asleep behind the wheel of the car she was driving in Austria, an inquest heard.

Elliot Harding was killed when metal railings “speared” into the car Bianca Leuschner was driving after she ploughed it into a bridge parapet.

Now the 24-year-old’s devastated family are warning motorists of the dangers of driving when tired after they lost “a wonderful young man”.

The couple had been travelling on a 170-mile trip back home from a music festival to her house in Zell Am See when she fell asleep.

Southampton Coroner’s Court heard that Leuschner had taken over driving after the former member of the TA felt tired but moments later she lost control of the red Mitsubishi Colt.

Witness Rico Mayrle, who was travelling behind the couple, said he saw the car swerve off the carriageway, “out over the curb” and collide with the bridge parapet.

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He said: “I can give no reason as to why the car had veered off the carriageway.”

Grahame Short, coroner for Southampton and the New Forest determined that the former oil refinery worker from Woolston died as a result of a road traffic accident on August 21, 2011.

Leuschner was arrested for involuntary manslaughter for driving without due care and attention and at a trial in Austria she was fined a total of €2,080.

Represented by Slater and Gordon Lawyers, Elliott’s family are now pursuing a civil action against Leuschner’s insurers.

They are urging drivers to rest on long journeys in a bid to prevent other families from suffering as they did.

Speaking after the inquest Elliot’s dad, Ian, said the incident had “ruined all of our lives”.

Remembering Elliot as a real adventurer, he said: “Our lives will simply never be the same again. We have a huge void which is just impossible to fill and we all miss him very much.”

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“Elliot was a very bright young man with his whole life ahead of him so to lose him has been more devastating than is possibly imaginable.

“I would urge anyone who is driving to take regular breaks and if you do feel tired please stop and have a rest.”