A drink driver has been jailed after veering onto the wrong side of the road and crashing into a car, causing the young couple inside to suffer catastrophic injuries.
Alex Ashburne, 41, had been drinking in a pub in Looe in the hours before he collided head on with a car driven by 19-year-old Harry Maywood, who had just picked up his girlfriend Olivia Boxall, 18.
The collision happened just after midnight on September 5 last year on the B3359 between Looe and Pelynt in south east Cornwall.
Ecologist Ashburne, formerly of Cornwall but now of Burnley, Lancashire, was sentenced at Truro Crown Court on Friday, having previously pleaded guilty to two counts of causing injury by dangerous driving, and drink driving.
Sophie Johns, for the prosecution, told the court: “Harry Maywood was driving his girlfriend Olivia home from Liskeard.
“Miss Boxall was tired and leaning against the passenger door with her eyes closed when just after 12.30am, Mr Maywood drove around a sweeping bend and his car was hit head on by an Audi A4 driven by the defendant.
“The defendant was on the wrong side of the road which meant the front of the defendant’s car hit the front of Mr Maywood’s car on the driver’s side. The impact was huge.
“Miss Boxall tried to speak to Mr Maywood but he didn’t respond. She remembers him hunched over the steering wheel making a groaning noise and it was clear he was seriously injured.
“She managed to get out of the car and she became overwhelmed by pain and collapsed. She could smell hot oil and was worried the car would catch fire.
“She was desperate to help Mr Maywood and tried to open the door but she found herself in so much pain, all she could do was collapse on the verge next to the car. The defendant was trapped in his vehicle.”
After a short while, others arrived at the scene and the emergency services were called at 12.40am. When police officers attended they noticed a strong smell of alcohol coming from Ashburne.
A blood sample given some six hours after the accident revealed that Ashburne was still more than twice over the drink drive limit.
Ms Johns described the horrific injuries sustained by Harry and Olivia, which were initially life-threatening, while Ashburne was also seriously hurt.
Both Harry and Olivia were placed in induced comas upon their arrival at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
Harry suffered severe trauma to the brain, which has left him with permanent neurological damage. He suffered two collapsed lungs, a laceration to his liver, abdominal injuries, and his spleen had to be removed. In total he spent 80 days in hospital and had to learn to eat, talk and walk again.
Earlier this year, Harry’s parents thanked the Cornwall Air Ambulance for saving their son’s life. Harry’s father Bryan said doctors had been amazed by his recovery.
“We are so grateful to have Harry here,” said Mr Maywood.
Olivia suffered a fractured spine, a broken arm and severe internal bleeding which required surgery. She was in hospital for a month and lost three stone in weight, after not being able to eat for a fortnight.
Ashburne broke his leg and hip and suffered abdominal injuries, and was also in hospital for a month.
A forensic collision investigator estimated that Ashburne was travelling at a speed of 48 to 58 mph at the point of impact.
Ashburne has no previous convictions, but two penalty endorsements for speeding.
Judge Robert Linford said the victim impact statements provided by the victims and their families set out in detail how Ashburne’s decision “wrecked the lives of two young people and seriously affected the lives of the people around them”.
Defending Ashburne, his barrister said: “I wish to express my client’s regret and remorse to the victims and also to their families.”
The court heard how at the time of the incident, Ashburne was at an extreme low point in his life, suffering from depression for which he was seeing a psychiatrist. Ashburne dealt with his severe depression by drinking alcohol.
Judge Linford considered suspending a prison sentence, due in part to Ashburne’s proven poor mental health. But the impact upon the lives of the victims and their families was deemed to be too great.
Ashburne was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified from driving for three years, after which he must take an extended retest.
“Your drink driving and considerable dangerous driving has wrecked their lives,” Judge Linford said. “The injuries which they suffered as a consequence were devastating, each of them were placed in induced comas.
“I have read the victim personal statements and those statements set out in graphic terms the effect that your decision to drink and drive had on their lives, and it was your decision to do it.
“Until this incident you were a decent, hardworking man. Your sense of shame and remorse could not have been more keenly felt. It is clear in the run up to the collision you were spiralling even deeper into depression.
“But I simply cannot suspend this sentence. These offences are far, far too serious.”