Sidmouth rugby coach died after businessman crashed on flooded road, court hears
A 54 year old motorist lost control of his high performance car on a muddy and wet road and struck an oncoming car killing its driver, a jury has been told.
Keith Mills, a care home owner, did not see the stream of water that was flowing across the A3052 road at Hangmanstone near Seaton, Devon, which led his car to fishtail.
Mills denies causing the death of 68 year old Richard Sawbridge by careless driving in January 2012.
Prosecutor Jonathan Barnes told the jury said Devon county council education assessor Mr Sawbridge was ‘utterly blameless for the accident which led to his death and was driving his car properly’.
But Mr Barnes said Mills, of Colcombe Wood, Colyton, Devon, had overtaken a couple in their car on the 60mph A road as he drove to a dental appointment in Exmouth and they said his Audi R8 Quatro car ‘whooshed’ past them as they drove at between 35-40mph in the drizzly conditions.
Mr Barnes said the couple saw him lost control and turn sideways and estimated he was travelling at 70mph when the head on collision happened.
Exeter Crown Court heard that ‘excessive speed was one significant cause of the loss of control’ and Mr Barnes said they accept another significant cause was the wet road caused by a blocked drainage ditch which was full.
He said:”There was a stream of water running across the road.”
He said:”We accept that the presence of the water on the road had something to do with the accident.”
He said high performance car aquaplaned out of control because the tyres had no proper grip – and one of them had an illegal tread.
Mr Barnes said Mills was familiar with the road and blocked drains was nothing new but claimed Mills was ‘going too fast’.
In police interviews Mills said his car twitched after he overtook a car and it headed across the road into the path of oncoming traffic.
Police investigators found some patches of mud on the road and the jury heard there were signs warning of mud on the road and farm vehicles crossing.
In a second interview Mills said after overtaking a couple in their car he encountered mud on the road and was aware of ‘how slippy the road was’. He tried to correct the slide but his car fishtailed.
Mills said he had some training from Audi when he bought the high powered car and he had also driven a Porsche at the Silverstone race track.
He said in interview that the wet and muddy road conditions were ‘worse than I anticipated’ and his car had never reacted like this before.
Mills said he saw the stream of water coursing across the road when he saw in a police car after the crash and ‘had not seen it before the accident’.
He claimed he was driving at ‘less than 60mph’ when he made the ‘appropriate’ overtaking manoeuvre and denied he was running late or that his driving was careless.
Mr Sawbridge, a coach for the juniors at Sidmouth rugby club, lost consciousness in the crash and died at the scene despite the efforts of passers by and paramedics.
Judge Phillip Wassall told the jury before the case was opened that it was a ‘complete tragedy, a very sad case’ and the victim’s family have been left ‘mourning a dearly loved family member’.