A ‘catastrophic error’ by a tipper driver led to the death of a Corby woman and her unborn baby daughter, a court has heard.
Laura Smithson was excitedly travelling to work at Rushton Hall on the morning of July 17, 2018, to hand in her maternity leave paperwork when a lorry driven by Robert Jeyes of Boughton Green Road, Northampton, ploughed into her car, killing her instantly.
Jeyes, 45, was at Northampton Crown Court this morning (Friday, April 12) to be sentenced for death by careless driving, which he had admitted at a previous hearing.
Laura’s parents Tim and Sally Smithson were in the public gallery for the hearing, at which Jeyes kept his head bowed throughout the proceedings.
Prosecutor Andrew Peet told the court that Laura was five months pregnant with a baby girl, adding: “She and her partner Ian Traynor were looking forward to the arrival a few months later.”
The couple had been together for four years.
Mr Peet continued: “Laura died instantly as a result of a catastrophic collision with a 21-tonne, fully loaded tipper lorry.”
The lorry driven by Jeyes was travelling on Oakley Road, between Rushton and Corby, when it came across another HGV being driven in the other direction, which was being followed by Laura in her Fiat 500.
The court heard how the road was narrow and Jeyes manoeuvred his lorry to the left, on to the soft verge to avoid the oncoming HGV.
Mr Peet said: “He wasn’t speeding, he was on the right side of the carriageway and he was travelling at 24mph.”
But the verge dipped down deeply and Jeyes’s skip lorry began to overbalance. He tried to recover the vehicle but overcompensated and his lorry fell to the right, on to the car driven by Laura.
Mr Peet added: “He lost control and the lorry veered catastrophically out of control.
“It spun over and into the Miss Smithson as she was driving in the other direction behind the other lorry.
“It caused unsurvivable damage to the Fiat 500.”
Laura died instantaneously and was unaware of what was happening, the court heard.
In moving victim impact statements, Laura’s mother Sally Smithson said that she had not only lost her daughter, but her best friend.
Mr Peet said: “The loss to Mr Traynor and to Laura’s parents will live with them forever.
“Mr Traynor feels he’s lost everything.
“Sally Smithson said it’s left an irreplaceable hole in her life.
“Tim Smithson makes the point that no parent should survive their child.
“Plainly the loss to each of these people and also to those close to the family is irreplaceable and unforgettable.
“Everybody wishes this had never happened.”
In mitigation, the court heard that Jeyes had no previous convictions and a long, unblemished driving record with no points on his licence. He had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
He had said that he was truly sorry for what had happened and the court heard how it was something that ‘dominated his thoughts, day in, day out.’
Sentencing Jeyes, Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking said: “I want to make it very clear that no sentence I pass today can ever compensate the family.
“You moved your vehicle off the road into the verge.
“That was a catastrophic error.”
Jeyes was sentenced to a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for two years.
He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and will lose his driving licence for two years. He will be made to complete an extended retest if he wishes to reapply for his licence.