Young driver spared pri­son over pen­sioner death crash

Western Mail - - NEWS - JA­SON EVANS Court re­porter ja­son.evans@waleson­

AYOUNG and in­ex­pe­ri­enced driver who killed an “adored father” af­ter tak­ing a bend too quickly at night has been spared an im­me­di­ate jail term.

Hanna Siriol Lewis had held a driv­ing li­cence for just three months when she crashed into 79-year-old Bryan John Smithers’ car, killing him al­most in­stantly.

The 17 year old had been driv­ing home from a day at the beach with friends when she ploughed into the great-grand­fa­ther’s Rover.

A judge said no sen­tence he could pass could ease the an­guish or make good the loss Mr Smithers’ fam­ily felt over his death.

Lewis, of Llan­dovery and now aged 18, had pre­vi­ously pleaded guilty to caus­ing death by care­less driv­ing when she ap­peared in the dock of Swansea Crown Court for sen­tenc­ing.

Ge­orgina Buck­ley, pros­e­cut­ing, said Lewis had spent the even­ing of Au­gust 26 last year with friends in Llanst­ef­fan, Car­marthen­shire, be­fore head­ing home. With her in her Audi was her friend Bron­wen Tin­ney while an­other friend was fol­low­ing be­hind in an­other car.

At around 10.15pm she was on the B4312 head­ing to­wards the vil­lage of Llan­gain, while com­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion was Mr Smithers, who was re­turn­ing home from a bridge club.

The court heard that as Lewis rounded a left-hand bend in the road she smashed into the on­com­ing car.

Lewis got out of the ve­hi­cle to try to of­fer first aid, but later ad­mit­ted she did not re­ally know what to do.

Re­tired nurse Paul Nor­man, who lived nearby, was soon on the scene and be­gan to per­form CPR on the ca­su­alty.

The court heard Mr Smithers was show­ing no signs of life and it was ob­vi­ous to Mr Nor­man that he was dead, but none­the­less he con­tin­ued to per­form CPR un­til an am­bu­lance ar­rived some 25 min­utes later.

The cause of death for Mr Smithers was given as mul­ti­ple trauma in­juries sus­tained as a re­sult of a road traf­fic col­li­sion.

Lewis’ pas­sen­ger was also se­ri­ously in­jured in the crash, suf­fer­ing a bro­ken wrist, punc­tured lung, and a com­plex frac­tured ver­te­brae.

Miss Buck­ley said a crash in­ves­ti­ga­tor con­cluded the pri­mary cause of the col­li­sion had been “ac­tions or in­ac­tions of the Audi driver” go­ing into the bend on the road.

The speed limit on the road was 60mph and Lewis’ speed was es­ti­mated at be­tween 52mph and 55mph.

The court heard de­tails of Lewis’ po­lice state­ment given fol­low­ing the crash in which she said that as she took the bend in the road “[car] lights were di­rectly in front of me” and she swerved to the right to try to avoid them. The pros­e­cu­tor then read a state­ment from Mr Smithers’ wife, Mar­garet, in which she said she had “lost her best friend, hus­band, and carer” in the fa­tal crash.

She said they had met 45 years ago and mar­ried within six weeks of that first meet­ing.

She de­scribed her hus­band as “a won­der­ful hus­band and father to four chil­dren, grand­fa­ther to nine, and great-grand­fa­ther to two”.

The court heard on the day he died Mr Smithers had first taken the bus to Car­marthen and picked up a news­pa­per for a neigh­bour be­fore re­turn­ing home for lunch in the gar­den.

Later in the day he had driven to his bridge club – kiss­ing his wife and say­ing good­bye as he left.

The court also heard de­tails of a state­ment writ­ten on be­half of Mr Smithers’ chil­dren which de­scribed him as “the most won­der­ful and adored father” who “very much” loved and cared for their mon­ther.

Bar­ris­ter Ni­cholas Gedge, for Lewis, de­scribed the si­t­u­a­tion as a “happy sum­mer’s day that be­came a tragedy”.

He said there was noth­ing to sug­gest there had been any­thing amiss with his client’s driv­ing that even­ing and, though she had been go­ing un­der the speed limit, it was now clear “she was go­ing too fast for that cor­ner”.

He said Lewis came from “a lov­ing fam­ily, a farm­ing fam­ily” and had led a pos­i­tive life and was now at univer­sity.

Judge Keith Thomas said it was clear the crash had been caused by poor judge­ment and in­ap­pro­pri­ate speed by an in­ex­pe­ri­enced driver.

Judge Thomas said that fol­low­ing na­tional sen­tenc­ing guide­lines the ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tence af­ter trial would have been one of 12 months in a young of­fend­ers’ in­sti­tu­tion.

Giv­ing Lewis credit for her guilty plea that was re­duced to eight months and the term was sus­pended for two years. Lewis must also com­plete 200 hours of un­paid work and was banned from driv­ing for three years.

> Hanna Lewis, 18

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