Mid Wales

Fatal crash driver Margaret Christopher, 81, 'fell asleep'

The crash happened on this bend of the A4159 near Lovesgrove Image copyright Google
Image caption The crash happened on this bend of the A4159 near Lovesgrove

A man died in a head-on crash after an elderly driver fell asleep at the wheel, a court has heard.

Margaret Christopher, 81, of Southport, Lancashire, was part-way through a six-and-a-half hour drive to west Wales when she collided with David England's car at Lovesgrove near Aberystwyth.

Swansea Crown Court heard she drove straight on at a left-hand curve.

She admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was given a 14-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

Prosecutor Francis Jones told the court Christopher, then aged 80, was en route to her daughter's home in Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire, to look after her daughter's dog while she went on holiday in March 2015.

She had taken two breaks already, the last one at Machynlleth - about 18 miles (29km) away - but felt she needed another one and had been looking for a layby to stop at when the collision occurred.

Mr England, 67, was initially conscious and able to talk to emergency services but died at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff two days later from injuries to his heart and central nervous system.

His daughter Rhian England, a passenger in the front seat, suffered fractures to her arm and leg and spent three months in a wheelchair.

'Soulmate'

The court heard doctors had thought Christopher would also die in the first two days after the crash, and she had no recollection of what had happened or why.

Mr Jones said other drivers thought Christopher had not even tried to take the bend and there was no sign she had braked.

Both cars were in good condition, the road was well-surfaced and the weather was fine while speed was not a factor, Mr Jones said.

In a victim impact statement, Mr England's widow Mair said she thought of her "soulmate" all the time.

Defending, Andrew Nuttall said Christopher thought about Mr England and his family every day.

"She understands very well that words give little comfort to the family. But all she can say is that she is very, very sorry," he said.

"She really has no idea what happened. She has decided never to drive again."

'Taken a chance'

Judge Huw Davies told Christopher: "Age caught up with you in a tragic way and without warning.

"You think you must have fallen asleep. There is no other explanation for what happened."

He said Christopher had "taken a chance" by undertaking such a long journey at her age.

Christopher was also banned from driving for two years and ordered to pass an extended driving test should she ever want her licence back.

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