An RAF engineer has spoken of his disappointment after a pensioner who nearly killed him when she fell asleep at the wheel of her Mercedes car was spared jail.
As reported previously, Karl Hargreaves was left fighting for his life when Mary Crofts, 69, smashed in to his motorcycle just hours after flying back from a holiday to Gran Canaria. He now wants to raise awareness of motorists driving while tired.
Lincoln Crown Court heard Crofts veered on to the wrong side of the road and caused a five vehicle collision after grabbing just a “small amount” of sleep following her return from the Spanish island.
But a judge took the “exceptional course” of passing a suspended prison sentence on Crofts after hearing she was of positive good character and had admitted her guilt.
Crofts, who runs a ship fending business in Billingford, Norfolk, was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for two years, a two month night time curfew and banned from driving for three years. She was must also take an extended retest and pay £530 court costs.
Speaking after the hearing Mr Hargreaves, who was based at RAF Waddington, near Lincoln, said:
“It is difficult to put into words the impact that this accident has had on my life and I am quite shocked that the driver’s previous good character enabled her to escape prison.
“She consciously made the decision to drive, knowing the impact that it could have, and in doing so has completely changed my life in every conceivable way.
“As an engineer and biker, I led a very full and active life, and that was taken away in a matter of minutes by one irresponsible decision.
“I feel quite bitter about the whole experience, but I’m grateful of support from Minster Law and what it has enabled me to achieve in terms of recovery.
“It’s really important that drivers understand the damage that they can do by getting behind the wheel tired and once it’s done the impact cannot be reversed.”
Mr Hargreaves had said in a previous victim impact statement: “I just need everyone to know this has taken my life away from me. I am not the man I was.”
Minster Law Solicitor, David Sears, acting on behalf of Mr Hargreaves said: “This is another case that highlights the vulnerability of bikers on UK roads and demonstrates the impact of irresponsible driving decisions.
“We’re pleased to have been able to support Karl through his recovery and will continue to do so, but we sincerely hope that the learnings from it will act as a warning for other drivers to prevent future accidents.”
The court heard Crofts was driving back to her isolated Norfolk farm house after making a short stop over with friends when other motorists noticed her Mercedes E320 drifting over the centre white line of the busy A17 at Heckington.
Crofts collided with the back of a highways maintenance lorry travelling in the opposite direction before smashing head-on in to a motorcycle ridden by Mr Hargreaves.
The senior NCO stopped breathing but was revived by passing trauma medic Andrew Hull.
He was then airlifted to the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham where he was treated in intensive care for multiple fractures and a severe brain injury.
Mr Hargreaves, who also enjoyed running and cycling, was eventually transferred to the specialist military rehabilitation unit at Headley Court in Surrey where he learnt to walk again with a stick after the crash left him wheelchair bound. He is still working towards resuming a full time RAF career.