Two people severely injured by drunk driver in the Cotswolds
By Court reporter | 16th August 2021
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 on Thursday (Aug 12).
Loic Freeman, 26, of Bullinghope, Hereford, collided with an oncoming car on historic Grade II listed Halfpenny Bridge in Lechlade, Gloucestershire - 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.
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. Ms Wood did try to turn her body to shield herself.
"She thought she was going to die when she had been hit. She describes it that she felt that her insides had fallen out."
One of Mr Rahman's passenger, who has asked not to be identified, was also seriously injured in the collision, she said. He suffered 'substantial injuries' which needed urgent medical treatment in hospital.
Freeman immediately walked away from the scene - but he returned later, ten minutes after the police had arrived.
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 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."
Ms Wood went into the witness box and told the court "Psychologically, this incident continues to impact on my life. Living in such close proximity to the scene of the accident I constantly have views of the bridge. I get a pain in my chest as my anxiety increases.
"When I drive over it, which is necessary, I can't help but be reminded of what happened. I am often fearful that drivers haven't seen me when I walk along a road.
"Immediately after the event and for the following months I was in survival mode. I had to learn to walk again before I returned to work. I was determined that I needed to get back to normal as soon as possible.
"And to a certain extent I have achieved this, but to my own detriment in pushing so hard that I am now having to take time out to try and work through the trauma.
"I am having treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder as I am not coping very well with everyday life at present as I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. I have intense feelings of guilt.
"I am also suffering physically with pains in my lower back and pelvis and I still have issues with bladder and bowel control.
"When I sit at my desk, the pain on my rib cage is unbearable. I have been reduced to tears by the frustration of all of this on many occasions.
"My life has been on hold. Although I remain hopeful, I'm not the person I was prior to this event."
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.
"The background to this is that the family business collapsed in 2018 and members of his fellowship community helped rebuild it. But all the responsibility was placed on him to turn the business around. It now employs 15 people.
"On the day in question, it had been a day in which his wider family had got together for a picnic. Freeman had thought he had been pacing himself over his alcohol intake. However, he didn't include the additional tots of vodkas he was given throughout the day.
"At the end of the picnic Freeman was expected to drive people back to Hereford and he failed to realise he was over the alcohol limit to drive.
"Freeman doesn't ask for excuses. However, he will not learn anything if he is sent to prison. He is much more reserved today than he was 15 months ago.
"I believe there was a degree of shock that played on him which is why he walked away from the scene of the accident. He cleaned himself in the river before giving himself up to the police."
Judge Taylor said to Freeman: "Sadly you chose to jump the red lights at the bridge in Lechlade and the dashcam footage shows quickly the collision occurred.
"The force of the impact swung your vehicle around, pinning one of the four pedestrians between the back of your car and the wall. Unsurprisingly Ms Wood thought she might die.
"This was a highly dangerous manoeuvre as the bridge was so narrow there was no escape. You also had little regard for the safety of your two passengers - your parents.
"It must have been very clear to you that this had been a very severe crash in which you initially left the scene. When you did return you blew into the breathalyser and were found to be two-and-a-half times over the limit. The police made a bad decision in not charging you for this offence.
"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.
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