A lorry driver has been jailed for two years after causing a crash in Northamptonshire that left a four-year-old girl with brain damage and blind in one eye.
The 23-year-old, Mindaugas Urbonavicius, was sentenced yesterday following a collision in which he drove his heavy goods vehicle at 50mph into the back of a white Volvo, which was stationary in a queue of traffic.
Three children were in the back of the car, including four-year-old Cressida Whitehead who, Northampton Crown Court heard, suffered “life-changing injuries”.
Mr Langdale, prosecuting, said: “Cressida suffered complex skull fractures with internal bleeding, reduced vision in her left eye and a broken leg.”
A doctor’s report in January, five months after the collision on August 22 last year, stated the “major trauma” had now left Cressida with no sight in her left eye.
She still needs reconstructive surgery to her face and head which could require use of her own ribs.
During the incident at 4.50pm between junctions 15 and 15a on the M1 northbound, Urbonavicius had been driving at 52 miles per hour in a temporary 40mph zone as he approached stationary traffic.
The court heard that he hit the Volvo, which was “shunted” into the car in front, causing a “domino effect” on the next two cars.
The Volvo was propelled from lane one across into the central reservation barrier and, Mr Langdale said, witnesses believed that it would flip over the barrier into the other side.
He said: “Other people, including the Whitehead family were taken to hospital with bruising and minor injuries.
“A report from a forensic investigation states that there was no evidence of the lorry driver braking before he hit the Volvo.”
Urbonavicius, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and has travelled to the UK three times from his home in Lithuania to appear in court following the crash.
A statement from Cressida’s father, George Whitehead, who was driving the Volvo at the time read: “Our daughter is permanently disfigured and it is likely she will develop learning difficulties. Her young brothers still have nightmares and on the day of the crash, we all thought she would not survive the night.
“Despite all of this, we feel it would be of little benefit to give the driver a custodial sentence for what, to him, was a momentary lapse in judgement.”
Defending, Nick Defreitas, said: “My client has shown a great deal of remorse.
“He was distracted by looking in his mirrors to move into the middle lane and, when he turned back and saw the traffic, it was too late.”
Recorder Martin Hurst, sentencing, said: “This was not a momentary lapse in judgement, as you were going at the maximum speed the vehicle would allow.
“What happened has changed the life of this family forever and caused catastrophic injuries.
“Mr Whitehead’s comments were extremely generous and you have shown courage by returning to the country to attend court, but there still needs to be an element of deterrent to other drivers.
“We do not want you to be driving on the roads of this country again.”
Urbonavicious, of Sakiai in Lithuania, was jailed for two years and banned from driving for five years. He will be automatically deported back to Lithuania.