Damian Lewis' nephew died in a car accident after he "inexplicably" drove on the wrong side of the road.

Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis

The 'Homeland' actor's relative, Hugo Yaxley - the son of his sister, Amanda Yaxley - was just 20 years old when he passed away in the early hours of 17 November last year, hours after his Honda Jazz collided head-on into a Range Rover.

An inquest held at Salisbury's Coroner's Court heard how Hugo was driving on the wrong side of the road "for reasons that are unclear" in a terrible accident.

The student shouted "s***" moments before the impact of the crash, which left his girlfriend Minna Leatham with a broken back.

Two other friends were also in the car and one told the inquest that none of them realised his error.

The pal said: "Hugo has always been a safe driver, he's aware of the highway code and well-educated.

"I have no idea why he was on the wrong side of the road, I've been thinking about it a lot and think it was a lapse. No one realised we were on the wrong side of the road, we weren't shouting about it."

PC Robert Eccleston, of Wiltshire Police, told the court driving conditions were poor because of the rain and darkness.

Coroner David Ridley said: "For reasons that are unclear, he was driving on the wrong side of the highway ever since joining the road. Despite efforts to get his attention, they failed and sadly then there was the collision.

"As a consequence Hugo sustained injuries incompatible with life and was pronounced dead in the early hours of the following morning."

After his nephew's death, Damian - whose wife Helen McCrory died last month following a secret battle with cancer - hailed Hugo as an inspiration and praised his "incredible legacy".

He wrote: "The recurring theme talking to people about Hugo, is that, for one so young, he leaves an incredible legacy. He truly inspired people of his generation, through his own bravery, to be more confident and open about their mental health.

"This is an extraordinary thing to have achieved by the age of 20. He's touched more people in his short life than most do in their longer ones.

"One great memory is of our family holiday in Mallorca when Hugo perfected and demonstrated (endlessly) the art of 'bombing' in the swimming pool. Face down mostly.

"For ages afterwards, we called him Bomber Yaxley. He became many other fabulous things as he got older but that fearlessness never left him. And he used it to help others. Love you Hugo."

Before her death, Helen had also paid a heartfelt tribute to Hugo.

On a charity site set up in his memory, she wrote: "Hugo was a very rare young man, an old soul, whose wisdom was far beyond his years.

"Hugo wasn't an average young man. He had already been to hell and back as a teenager battling with depression, he had conquered it, not by ridding himself of it but by refusing to allow it to stop his stride.

"His smile was huge and broad and contagious. We will keep him alive in our hearts forever but I'm so so sad l'll never see it again."

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