A “WONDERFUL family man” took his own life by driving off a cliff after a long battle with chronic depression.

David Routhan’s best friend had driven off the same cliff 14 years previously and he had told family he had plans to do the same “on and off for a few years”.

His mother told an inquest he had been “feeling depressed and suicidal” and she and other family members had been trying to persuade him to get help.

She described him as being in a “very bad state” and “very emotional” the night before the incident.

The 42-year-old was driving a grey Vauxhall Vivaro van along Marine Drive in Brighton when witnesses saw him turn right and leave the road near Roedean School on the morning of May 12.

He squared the vehicle up to a grass embankment before driving over it, through a fence and off the edge of the cliff, an inquest in Brighton heard.

In statements, witnesses including a man fishing with his seven-year-old son described seeing the van as it fell from the cliff on to the Undercliff Walk below.

An off-duty police officer was driving home along the coast road after a night shift when he saw the incident.

Accompanied by another passer-by, he ran down from the road to the site where the van, which was “heavily damaged”, had landed, calling emergency services as he did so.

The pair found Mr Routhan in the vehicle and said he was still breathing.

The officer told coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley he had been able to confirm nobody else was in the van before becoming unresponsive.

Emergency services rushed to the scene and an ambulance arrived within six minutes.

Mr Routhan was removed from the van and taken to the nearby Royal Sussex County Hospital but he was in cardiac arrest upon arrival and his heart was no longer generating a pulse.

A trauma team had been prepared for his arrival and met him at the door. He was taken to the emergency department where he underwent several procedures including emergency surgery in an attempt to strengthen his pulse and breathing.

But “resuscitation efforts were not working”. It was decided he would not survive his injuries and resuscitation was stopped in 7.41am.

Ms Hamilton-Deeley said: “Of all the places for David to be taken to this was the best place for him to stand any chance of surviving.”

A post mortem found a large amount of blood had gathered in his abdominal cavity.

Ms Hamilton recorded the cause of death as hypovolemia – a decreased amount of blood circulating in the body – as a result of a road traffic incident.

It was found that Mr Routhan , of Nuthurst Place, Brighton, was more than four times the drink drive limit when he died, which Miss Hamilton-Deeley said would have affected reactions and caused intoxication.

She said: “He had a lot of alcohol on board and had been suffering from chronic depression for some time.

“I am satisfied this was a deliberate act.

“He has driven over the edge of the cliff in the same position as his friend in 2005.

“No brake lights came on which is quite an important observation because sometimes if something happens the immediate reaction is to brake and stop.

“From the evidence I have heard I am satisfied that David did intend to take his own life.”

Anyone experiencing emotional distress and struggling to cope, can contact the Samaritans 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org