Mother's agony at death crash tragedy

A DEVASTATED mother last night criticised the jail term handed to a lorry driver who caused the death of her eight-year-old son - and told of the “gaping hole” left in her family.

Dave Gooderham

A DEVASTATED mother last night criticised the jail term handed to a lorry driver who caused the death of her eight-year-old son - and told of the “gaping hole” left in her family.

Louise Elbrow said every aspect of her life had been destroyed after her son William was killed following a pile-up on the A14 last May.

HGV driver Michael Coombes , 62, of St Mary's Road, Stowmarket, was yesterdayjailed for two-and-a-half years.

He was said to have shown “prolonged inattention” in the build-up to the crash. His 22-tonne lorry smashed into a 4x4 driven by the youngster's father as the family, from Thrapston, Northamptonshire, were travelling to the seaside for a weekend break.

In a moving statement read out in court, Mrs Elbrow told how her son's death had affected her.

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“It is difficult to know where to start in trying to describe the devastating effect that William's death has had on my life. Every aspect of my life has been destroyed. There is such a gaping hole in our family and my heart has been truly broken.

“If it were not for my two remaining children and my sense of duty to them, then I know there would be absolutely no purpose to my life. My trust in life has been shattered and there is not a day that passes that I do not question why I am still here. William and I really were so very close, but now he has gone and my life is so empty and cripplingly sad without him.”

She went on to describe the horrific events surrounding her son's death.

“I am so very haunted by the images surrounding William's sudden and violent death. Wishing that I did not need to pull my little boy's broken body from the carnage caused by the defendant and that I didn't have to witness the dreadful damage done to William's face. I feel anger that in contrast, the defendant although responsible for this outcome, did not have to witness anything so horrific.

“I feel that quite often I am only partially functioning which inevitably leads to a feeling of guilt, inadequacy and ultimately anger that the actions of one person have deprived my family of so much.”

Coombes was last month found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving following the crash on the A14 near Cambridge.

William's father, Simon, 38, was seriously injured in the crash that claimed his son's life. His two other children, a six-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, also suffered minor injuries.

The court heard that Coombes' lorry smashed into the Mitsubishi 4x4 carrying William, and a caravan it was towing, after failing to notice it slowing down behind other traffic.

Christopher Paxton, defending, said that Coombes had been suffering from depression since the accident and had received death threats.

In 40 years as a lorry driver, he was estimated to have driven millions of miles and his career up to the crash was described as “exemplary”.

His Honour Judge Anthony Bate, who described Mrs Elbrow's victim impact statement as a “poignant tribute” to her young son, said: “The cause of this accident was tragically simple - prolonged inattention. There were no aggravating features like using a mobile phone or alcohol.”

Sentencing Coombes, he added: “Mrs Elbrow's personal statement speaks movingly of her son and his promise for a future that your criminal neglect has cut shot.

“Any punishment can no way equate to the loss you have inflicted on the bereaved Elbrow family - that is beyond measure.”

Coombes appeared expressionless as the 30-month jail spell was passed down along with a three-year driving ban.

Speaking after the case, Mrs Elbrow said: “I am just shocked, I expected a greater sentence although I always knew it was not going to be a lot.

“I don't feel there has been any justice. The whole trial has been completely unnecessary as from the word go, he (Coombes) had no defence for his actions.

“He has certainly not shown any remorse all the way through. It would not have brought William back but from a human level, for this man to realise the enormity of what he had done, would have made a small difference.

“I just hope this case highlights the need for drivers, once on the road, to realise they are in charge of a potentially lethal weapon.”

William's father Simon added: "I hope he rots in hell. He doesn't even know what he did."

Since the tragedy, Mrs Elbrow has helped raise more than £10,000 for road safety charity Brake. Donations can be made at

My life without William

This isn't right, my son is gone

It makes no sense, it must be wrong.

You know the one, the blondy guy

Toothy grin and gorgeous smile.

I watched him grow, to nearly nine

A handsome dude, so very fine.

He can't come back, he never will

My heart is broken, and time's stood still.

I yearn to hold him, to touch his face

But in his bed an empty space.

At dinner time, just four plates

The dog so sad, just sits and waits.

My life's so empty and full of pain

And every day it's there again.

I know that one day, when my work here's done

We'll meet again and we'll be one.

I'll take his hand, I'll kiss his face

And he'll lead me to a better place

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