A PEDESTRIAN and a car passenger were both severely injured when a drunk driver jumped red lights and smashed into them on a narrow one-way Cotswolds bridge over the Thames, a court heard.
Loic Freeman, 26, of Bullinghope, Hereford, collided with an oncoming car on historic Grade II listed Halfpenny Bridge in Lechlade, then hit pedestrian Nadine Wood, who was standing with a group of other people waiting to see Elon Musk’s Spacex satellite train spectacle pass overhead.
Ms Wood, 47, suffered devastating injuries including a spinal fracture and now has difficulty walking, Gloucester Crown Court was told on August 12.
Freeman pleaded guilty to two charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving on the A361 at Lechlade and was jailed for two and a half years. He was also banned from driving for three and a half years.
Prosecutor Nicola Wood said “On May 30 last year Nadine Wood was one of four people standing on the east side of the bridge, known as Thames Street, waiting to see the Spacex satellite train spectacle and she had been in position for two hours.
“Freeman, who had been drinking for much of the day on a family picnic, was travelling home, northbound on the A361 in his Audi A5 with both his parents as passengers. Meanwhile, Mr Mohammed Rahman was driving his white Mercedes coupe on the same road in the opposite direction towards Swindon.
“At 9.50pm the traffic lights on the bridge turned green for Mr Rahman and he began his journey over the bow-backed bridge. But Freeman had jumped the lights at the other end of the bridge and the two cars collided on the crest.
“The impact spun Freeman’s vehicle around and the rear of his car pinned Ms Wood against the wall on the east side of the bridge.”
One of Mr Rahman’s passengers, who has asked not to be identified, was also seriously injured in the collision, she said.
Freeman was arrested and taken into custody, where he was found to be two-and-a-half times the legal drink drive limit, said the prosecutor. He had a breath test reading of 95 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit being 35mcgs.
Judge Jason Taylor QC questioned why Freeman had not additionally been charged with driving with excess alcohol.
“Being this far over the legal limit Freeman should have been charged with driving while intoxicated, so it is recorded on his driving record just in case he ever does it again,” the judge said.
The court heard that Gloucestershire Police traffic collision investigators checked the phasing of the bridge traffic lights and concluded that the red light would have been illuminated for about ten seconds before Freeman drove through.
The investigators also suggested that Freeman was speeding because, if he had been travelling at or below the speed limit, he would have had time to stop.
Dashcam footage of the accident was then shown to the court and an audible gasp in the room when the the moment of impact was shown.
The prosecutor added: “Ms Wood was pinned against the wall for about a minute and it was some ten minutes before an ambulance arrived.
“Mr Rahman hit his head on the steering wheel and suffered minor injuries. Both his passenger and Ms Wood were left with life-altering injuries, having both been active prior to the incident.
“Ms Wood required surgery for a pelvic injury and developed deep vein thrombosis, along with a suffering from a lower spine fracture which meant she now has trouble walking.”
Bernard Richmond QC, defending, said: “Whatever Freeman originally believed was the case, he now accepts that he jumped the red light.
“His actions have resulted in two people suffering from horrible injuries.
“But despite all of that, this was not a case of a young man driving madly in a stolen vehicle at high speeds. It was his own car and he has shown significant remorse since the incident and is constantly thinking about his victims.
“The incident has constantly been on his mind for the past 15 months and due to his spiritual beliefs he has spent every day pondering over what went on. His beliefs mean he doesn’t socialise.
“The reality is that no sentence will adequately reflect the trauma the victim has suffered.”
Judge Taylor said to Freeman: “Your actions that day have had far reaching consequences with two people, both aged 47, sustaining life altering injuries. You showed a blatant disregard for the rules of the road by driving while intoxicated and jumping the red traffic lights.
“I accept you have shown significant remorse and have already taken a drink-drive rehabilitation awareness course and that you generally work hard.”
The judge jailed Freeman for 30 months and disqualified him from driving for three-and-a-half years from the day he was released from prison. He also ordered him to take an extended driving test when the ban ends.