Driver who caused death of friend in car crash tragedy spared jail
PUBLISHED: 17:51 13 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:54 13 May 2019
The family of a Suffolk teenager killed in a car crash have paid tribute to her in a poem read on the steps of Ipswich Crown Court after her friend who was at the wheel received a suspended sentence for careless driving.
Seventeen-year-old Isabelle Cottrell - known as "Izzy" - was a front seat passenger in a Vauxhall Corsa driven by Bethany Sanders when it left the road and hit a fence on the outskirts of Hadleigh nearly two years ago.
Part of the fence pierced the windscreen causing devastating head injuries to Miss Cottrell, who was pronounced dead at the scene by an air ambulance doctor.
Ipswich Crown Court heard 22-year-old Sanders had been on her way to buy a Father's Day card from Morrison's at the time of the crash on the A1071, near the junction of Coram Street, in June 2017.
Sentencing, Judge Martyn Levett told Sanders: "You will forever live with the memory that you killed your friend."
He said an expert report had concluded something in the car had caused Sanders to look away from the road shortly before the collision.
"I'm sure something happened in the car caused you to be distracted," he added.
Judge Levett said Izzy's death had had a devastating effect on her family: "You must realise that this tragic case leaves a mother and a father without a daughter and three siblings without their sister."
Sanders, of Homefield, Boxford, who has no previous convictions, admitted causing death by careless driving and was given a five month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, 150 hours unpaid work and a 30 day rehabilitation activity order.
She was also banned from driving for two years.
Lori Tucker, prosecuting, said Sanders' car had mounted a grass verge on the near side following a bend.
The car had then bounced on rough grass before returning to the road and veering towards the centre of the road, causing an oncoming motor cyclist to fear it was going to hit him.
The Corsa then veered back on to the correct side of the road and hit a sleeper at the entrance to a driveway before colliding with a hedge, a wooden post and rail fence.
Miss Tucker said there was no evidence Sanders had been under the influence of drink or drugs or that she had been using her mobile phone.
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She said a police accident investigator had concluded Sanders had been momentarily distracted as she came round a bend, causing her to drift on to the verge and had "overcorrected".
Miss Tucker said the crash happened on Miss Cottrell, known as Izzy, from Boxford, was the front seat passenger in the car which was being driven towards Ipswich.
The teenager was treated by an ambulance crew but was certified died at the scene at around 10.26pm.
Phillip Farr, for Sanders, said the tragic accident was caused by a "momentary lapse of attention".
He said there were no aggravating features such as alcohol, excess speed or the use of a mobile phone.
"She will, for the rest of her life, bear the weight of losing her best friend in circumstances she will carry with her for the rest of her life." said Mr Farr.
Following the sentencing Miss Cottrell's family paid tribute to her in a poem read outside court by Sergeant Scott Lee-Amies of Suffolk police: "You left us without warning, not even a good bye, and we cannot seem to stop, asking the question 'Why?'. We did not see this coming, it hit us by surprise, and when you left for heaven, a small part of us died. Your smile could brighten everyone's day, and no matter what we were going through, and every day, for the rest of our lives, we will be kissing you."
At the time of Miss Cottrell's death her family paid tribute, saying: "Izzy was a phenomenal, beautiful, strong willed person, who will be truly missed by all her family and friends.
"She was a wonderful typical teenager, who will leave a hole in everyone's lives that will never be filled.
"She loved her bed, loud music, cool cars, selfies, social media and always had good banter with anybody she came into contact with. Izzy had her own way of doing things and knew the path that she wanted to take in life.
"Since finishing school last year she was loving life, she was excelling in her brick-laying course at Colchester Institute with a bright future ahead of her, with offers already coming in from universities to attend after her next year at college.
"Izzy was a very caring, giving person and she adored her family and loved her friends.
"She would do anything for anyone, day or night. Even if she didn't have the time she would make the time for those that needed her most.
"Izzy couldn't wait to learn to drive and wanted a metallic pink, retro Volkswagen Beetle for her 18th birthday in February 2018.
"She was looking forward to being able to pick her niece up from school and driving herself to college. "She made friends wherever she went and left a lasting impression on everyone she met, she was beautiful inside and out and never realised what a wonderful person she was."