Audi R8 driver involved in fatal crash denies driving too fast
A Falklands hero has denied driving too fast before a head-on crash which killed a rugby coach on a partially flooded country road.
Keith Mills, who received the DSC for leading the defence of South Georgia in 1982, blamed the fatal crash on the A3052 near Beer on aquaplaning.
He says he realised a crash was inevitable in the moment before impact and thought ‘this is going to be a big one’.
He was on his way from his home in Colyton to a dental appointment in Exmouth when his Audi R8 Quattro sports car veered onto the wrong side of the road in January last year.
It collided with a Renault Megane being driven by 68-year-old retired Devon County Council education adviser Richard Sawbridge.
The father-of-three was returning home to Seaton from delivering winter clothing to a family who lived on a smallholding at Sidbury who he befriended through his work with their eight home-educated children.
The victim was a coach with the juniors section of Sidmouth Rugby Club and a long standing member of the local Round Table.
Care home owner Mills, aged 54, of Colcombe Wood, Colyton, denies causing death by careless driving in the case at Exeter Crown Court.
The prosecution say he was driving too fast for the conditions and lost control after overtaking an elderly couple at speed. His nearside rear tyre was also just below the legal tread limit.
Expert tests showed the car was going at around 50 mph at the time of the impact but would have aquaplaned at any speed over 42 mph.
Mills told the jury he had been a Royal Marine officer for 18 years, retiring in 1996 at the rank of Captain and was awarded the DSC for his role as officer commanding the detachment on HMS Endurance which had defended South Georgia.
He said he learned specialist driving skills during arctic training with the Marines, was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and had been on track driving days with Porsche and Audi.
He said he pulled out behind the couple who he overtook and had to wait until they were passing the Beer turning before he passed them.
Mills said he initially lost control when his car hit a patch of mud as he was completing the manoeuvre and about to return to his own side of the road.
He said: ”I suddenly realised I had driven into an immense amount of mud and said to my self ‘oh ****, this is not good news’.
“I knew if I did anything to the brakes I would lose control so I drifted back into my lane as gently as I could. There was a slight turn to the right and as I steered the car began to shimmy and fishtail.
“I applied opposite lock and was still fighting for control and was within my own lane but the back was still moving around. As I came round the bend the car hit standing water and I lost it completely.
“The nose went to the right and I was crossing the carriageway and most unfortunately I hit the other car. I did not see the water on the road at the time but was it later when I was in the police car and I could see what must have happened.
“I lost control when I aquaplaned and then I can’t remember anything. I remember crossing the road, seeing the oncoming vehicle and thinking ‘this is going to be a big one’.
“I believe my standard of driving was very good. The conditions I encountered during the overtaking manoeuvre were exceptional and could not be predicted.
“I always drive carefully and drove carefully on that day.”
The trial continues.