A father-of-four who was twice the drink-drive limit when his van careered out of control and struck a couple as they walked hand in hand – killing one of them – has been jailed for six years.
Ryan Draper, 27, of North Street, Caerwys and formerly of Deeside, was killed and his partner Kim Martin, also 27, from Rhyl, suffered critical life-changing injuries in the impact.
Both were hurled into a field in Flintshire and initially the van driver, Emyr David Jones, said at the scene he had hit a tree, his brother was coming to recover his vehicle and an ambulance was not needed. He told police he had swerved to avoid a fox.
It was only when other drivers stopped to assist that Mr Draper was found unresponsive in the field and he was declared dead at the scene.
A badly injured Miss Draper was found screaming nearby and she was rushed to hospital with pelvic, leg, wrist and other injuries.
Judge Niclas Parry, sitting at Mold Crown Court yesterday, imposed a six-year sentence for causing Mr Draper’s death by dangerous driving and a concurrent three-year sentence for causing Miss Martin serious injuries by dangerous driving.
Jones, 43, of Ruthin Road in Denbigh, was disqualified from driving for nine years. He admitted both charges.
Tests showed he had not braked but had gone onto the wrong side of the road and struck the couple walking in the dark, but waving a torch and wearing light clothing, on the B5122 road near the A55 in Caerwys on July 30 last year, said barrister Matthew Curtis, prosecuting.
Judge Parry said once again the court found itself having to deal with an incident on the roads of North Wakes which involved the wasteful death of a totally innocent person, and serious injuries caused to his equally innocent partner.
It had been caused by nothing other than Jones’ “utterly selfish and thoughtless” decision to drive although he had been drinking heavily all afternoon.
He lost control on a dry, clear night and he did not see two pedestrians carrying a torch and wearing bright clothing.
They had been seen by other drivers but without realising it Jones drifted onto the wrong side of the road.
The vehicle left the road without braking or taking any evasive action and his victims were projected into an adjoining field.
Jones was drunk and his response at the scene did him no credit, the judge said.
He added a loved, precious son had been killed and his partner critically injured. She had been left in constant pain and walked with a limp.
“She could easily have been killed,” the judge said, but her injuries had been life-changing.
The court heard Jones had one previous conviction from 14 years ago for driving with excess alcohol, which also involved a collision.
Judge Parry said the public and the families involved would understand the sentences were not intended in any way to reflect the value of a life, but to reflect the defendant’s culpability within the limitations of maximum sentences and guidelines.
Mr Curtis said tragedy struck at 12.45am as the couple were walking close to the A55 at Junction 31.
Jones had left a McDonald’s drive thru and other drivers had seen the couple walking and waving a torch on a mobile phone to alert them.
Jones had not swerved or took any avoiding action but drifted onto the wrong side of the road on a bend, struck the couple, and the van hit a small tree and overturned into a field.
Mr Draper died quickly at the scene from multiple injuries and Miss Martin was taken to Glan Clwyd Hospital and then transferred to hospital at Stoke-on-Trent where she underwent surgery.
In hospital Jones provided a blood-alcohol reading of 173 miligrames, compared with the legal limit of 80.
Jones later provided police with a prepared statement in which he denied dangerous or even careless driving and described it as “a tragic accident”.
He suggested one of the pedestrians stumbled in front of him and he could not avoid a collision.
Brian Treadwell, defending, said whatever Jones had said at the time, he accepted full responsibility, did not apportion blame and had expressed genuine remorse.
“He indicated himself that he needs to receive a custodial sentence. He acknowledges that needs to happen,” said Mr Treadwell.
He added that on a road with no pavement, Jones became disorientated, lost control and collided with the pedestrians “because his ability to drive was impaired by the alcohol he had consumed”.
He said: “That is the primary reason for losing control and causing the accident. He makes no excuses.”
Mr Treadwell said his client tendered genuine and sincere apologies to all the people affected by his actions.