A YORK motor enthusiast who provided classic cars for a popular TV show died in a road crash after a heart condition caused him to collapse at the wheel of his vehicle.

John Norton Harrison, 63, of Wigginton, York, died last October after the Mitsubishi pick-up he was driving collided with another car on the A19, north of Shipton-by-Beningbrough.

Returning with a friend from the set of the TV programme Heartbeat, for which he had supplied classic cars for many years, Mr Harrison was seen slumped at the wheel moments before colliding with an oncoming vehicle.

Witness Bryan Fern, of Clifton, was driving behind Mr Harrison.

He told the Northallerton inquest yesterday: "I watched him as he veered off to the right- hand side. I wondered just what he was doing.

"He managed to right himself and brought it back to the left, but then he drifted off into the other lane and collided with a Ford Focus coming the other way."

The driver of the oncoming car, William Charles Smith, also of Clifton, said: "I could see the driver slumped at the wheel, I thought he's either asleep or had a heart attack."

Mr Smith tried to escape the path of the Mitsubishi, but the cars collided, both crashing into a ditch. The inquest heard that Mr Harrison's death was due to serious head and neck injuries, with internal injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A post-mortem found Mr Harrison had a significantly enlarged heart, a condition which caused it to have an irregular rhythm, which could have caused him to collapse. He had previously been unwell and was diagnosed with asthma, but was feeling better at the time. His wife, Sheila, said: "He was relieved when they said it was asthma that had been making him ill. He had seemed much better, had a good night's sleep and seemed fine."

Coroner Michael Oakley said: "The driver of the Ford Focus did all he could to escape the collision but it was unavoidable. Mr Harrison was collapsed at the wheel due to the medical condition from which he was suffering, but the cause of the death was the quite horrific injuries he had suffered."

He recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Updated: 11:01 Wednesday, April 16, 2003