A CAR transporter driver killed a young Stratford mother as she selflessly went in front of his vehicle to save the life of one of her young daughters, who was also severely injured.
Praising her, a judge at Warwick Crown Court said it had been Rachael Martin’s last action on earth, adding: “What greater tribute could there be to a parent than that they might do that?”
Transporter driver David Farr had pleaded not guilty to causing 29-year-old Ms Martin’s death in Western Road, Stratford, in May last year by careless driving.
But at a further hearing the 51 year-old changed his plea to guilty.
Farr, ofHigh Lane, Stoke-on-Trent, escaped being jailed after the judge gave him an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years, banned him from driving for 18 months and ordered him to pay £2,500 costs.
Prosecutor Oliver Weetch said on May 20 last year Rachael was walking her daughters, five-year-old Keira and seven-year-old Leah, who were using their scooters, to school along Western Road, where there are a number of car dealerships.
Farr, driving an eight-car DAF transporter, had made a delivery to one of the dealerships, and began making a three-point turn to leave.
“After reversing, he then moved forward, and it was at this point, or just before this point, that it would appear Keira moved from the pavement to pass in front of it.
“Almost certainly seeing what was about to happen, Rachael Martin went after her daughter, trying to pull her back.
“It may well be that at that moment she forfeited her own life to potentially save that of Keira.”
And Judge Andrew Lockhart QC commented: “There is no doubt in my mind that she saved her life.”
Keira was struck by the front of the vehicle, suffering serious injuries to her pelvis and lower spine, but her mother was dragged under the wheels and sadly died at the scene.
Keira was flown to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where she underwent emergency surgery, and was then moved to a hospital in London for operations to rebuild her pelvis before returning to the children’s hospital – and she faces further staged operations.
Mr Weetch said that after reversing, there was only a short pause before Farr moved forward, reaching approximately 10mph before it became obvious to him that something had happened.
Farr got out of his cab and, as people tried to help Rachael and Keira, seemed shocked and tearful as he repeated: “I didn’t see her, I just didn’t see her.”
Accident investigator Pc Colin Humphreys assessed that, although he had checked his mirrors before reversing, Farr had then moved forward after 0.6 seconds, rather than taking three or so seconds to check his mirrors, one of which would have shown the front of his vehicle.
Joseph Hart, defending, said: “Nothing I say is intended to detract from the tragedy that occurred. I seek only to try to put the culpability of Mr Farr into context.”
He said Farr had made ‘all the appropriate observations’ while reversing, and suggested that it was while he was reversing that ‘Miss Martin got close to the lorry without being seen.’
“Miss Martin and her children were close to the sides of the vehicle, and at some stage it’s clear Miss Martin and Keira stepped in front. It is obvious that if she steps in front of it, it was to save her daughter.”
But the judge observed: “If the mirrors had been checked, they might have revealed the presence of both mother and child.”
And Mr Hart conceded: “Had Mr Farr paused for two seconds longer, it might have given him the opportunity to see Miss Martin or her child.”
He said Farr had become and HGV driver in 1994 after leaving the Armed Forces, during which he had served in Northern Ireland and in the Gulf War.
And, rather than what he witnessed as a soldier, it was Miss Martin’s death which has led to him now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, said Mr Hart.
“He was and is devastated by what happened. This was far beyond his worst nightmares. He is profoundly sorry.”
Sentencing Farr, Judge Lockhart said: “Rachael was 29 at the date of her death, the cherished daughter of Bill and Susan Simpson.
“There is no doubt in my mind that her last action on this earth saved the life of her daughter. What greater tribute could there be to a parent than that they might do that.
“The sense of devastation from the Simpson family is quite enormous. Mr Simpson is plainly overwhelmed with grief, and his statement moved me deeply, as did that of his wife Susan.”
Of Farr’s driving, the judge said: “There was nothing wrong with the reversing, him having checked his rear-view mirrors, but instead of carrying out proper checks to the front and side, he pulled forward.
“He should have paused for something close to three seconds to carry out proper checks. So his moment of inattention was that he should have waited and carried out further checks.
“At that very moment Keira had left the pavement and was going towards the front of his vehicle.
“Had Mr Farr carried out the checks, there is a possibility that what happened next would not have happened.
“He might have seen Keira, although that seems unlikely because she was so small and so close, but those checks were likely to have revealed Keira’s mother as she moved forward.
“Here the life of a young mother has been lost and her young daughters, who witnessed that, have been deeply traumatised.
“It is incumbent on anyone driving, and particularly those driving heavy goods vehicles, to take the utmost care.”
But Judge Lockhart added: “Mr Farr has shown considerable remorse. This man has been, for 11 months, suicidal and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“He has a distinguished service record. He has not suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from seeing death while serving his country – but he has from this.”