A HAMPSHIRE journalist who died in a car crash had taken Ecstasy and was three times the legal alcohol driving limit, an inquest heard.

Max Jones, 33, was pronounced dead at the scene after his red Volvo smashed into trees near Wellington in Somerset.

The inquest heard that a post-mortem examination revealed 232 milligrams of alcohol and 2mg of Ecstasy in his blood stream.

The married father-of-one, who worked for the Mid-Hampshire Observer in Winchester and lived in Bishopstoke, had been travelling alone on his way back from a day at Cheltenham races on March 18 at 7.15am.

His car veered off the A38 and collided with two trees, one after the other.

The impact with the second tree killed Mr Jones and the car was left hanging over an embankment, with the engine coming away from the chassis.

PC Andrew David Hill said Mr Jones had lost control of his vehicle.

He said conditions were normal and that Mr Jones was travelling somewhere between 64-75 mph at the time of the crash.

He said: "The level of alcohol was a major contributing factor, he was nearly three times the prescribed limit. He was unfit to drive the vehicle."

West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose said that having decided to go to Cheltenham Mr Jones had left his bags at a hotel in Tewkesbury. He decided to stay in Cheltenham with friends and had a lot to drink, the inquest heard. Rather than listening to a friend's advice and taking a taxi to Tewkesbury he set off in his car at 4.30am.

Mr Rose said: "It will always be a mystery why he went south on the M5. There is nothing that anybody could have done. I think the drugs and the alcohol played a part - these are the horrible consequences of doing them."

The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.