Young driver spared prison over pensioner death crash
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