Driver jailed for a year after death crash

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A young rugby player has been jailed for causing the death of his best friend in a two-vehicle horror crash.

Jack Braithwaite, 21, was driving a Peugeot 206 which drove straight over a give-way junction into the path of an oncoming Ford Mondeo carrying five young men.

The resulting collision near Egton left several passengers injured - including 19-year-old Kyle Gibson, a keen sportsman and organ donor who suffered fatal head injuries and died five days later.

The Glaisdale teenager was a front-seat passenger in the Peugeot driven by Braithwaite, who claimed he did not see the Mondeo as he drove across the junction where Egton Lane meets the A171 Whitby-to-Guisborough road.

Braithwaite - who had only just got his licence back following a previous driving rap - was charged with causing death by careless driving. He made no comment in police interview and initially denied the offence, but later pleaded guilty.

The strapping six-footer - a country-sports and boxing fanatic who has also played in local cricket leagues - appeared for sentence at York Crown Court on Friday dressed in a striped suit and maroon-and-white Whitby Rugby Union tie.

Prosecutor Aisha Wadoodi said that just before the crash, at about 10.30pm on July 3 last year, the headlights of the Mondeo - driven by a man in his early 20s who was taking four pals home from a fishing trip - would have been clearly visible to Braithwaite, who was carrying two passengers including Kyle.

Ms Wadoodi said Braithwaite failed to give way at the crossroads when the Mondeo clearly had right of way.

She added that the Mondeo driver assumed the Peugeot would stop at the junction because there were signs and road markings warning drivers to give way. But the Peugeot shot straight over and ended up in a ditch severely damaged.

Each of the casualties inside the two vehicles - including a 16-year-old boy - sustained mainly minor injuries but Braithwaite, from Egton, suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung. They were each taken to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, but were all later discharged except Kyle, who suffered a ruptured spleen and liver, broken ribs, serious head injuries and severe blood loss. He died surrounded by his family on July 8.

The court heard that Kyle had previously agreed to donate some of his organs in the event of his death so others could live. The popular, football-mad teenager, formerly of Hinderwell, was a talented artist and ex-pupil at Lythe School, Caedmon and Whitby Community College.

His heartbroken mother Maria Landers, who raised Kyle as a single parent, told the court that despite her devastation at the loss of her son, she did not blame Braithwaite because it was a tragic accident, adding: “I feel that he will serve his own life sentence.”

Ms Landers said Kyle and Braithwaite had been teammates in local rugby and cricket clubs. Kyle had just finished a joinery apprenticeship with his father Paul Gibson.

Mr Gibson, who has been on anti-depressants since his son’s death, was too upset to attend court but said in a statement that he had helped Kyle get hold of the organ-donor form not long before the accident, “not knowing how soon it would be used”.

Barrister Alasdair Campbell, for Braithwaite, said: “The loss of his best friend in these tragic circumstances is something that is going to weigh very heavily upon him for the rest of his life.”

But judge Rodney Jameson said Braithwaite’s refusal to co-operate with police showed a distinct lack of remorse.

He said it was “inconceivable” that Braithwaite did not see the Mondeo and that the defendant may well have been trying to beat the other vehicle over the junction.

The judge described Kyle’s death as “heartbreaking”, adding: “He was a much-loved young man with a bright future ahead of him, and his parents are devastated by the loss of their son. Perhaps the only real comfort to them is that, by his selfless registration on the organ-donors register, he was able to help others to live.”

Braithwaite, a father-of-one, was given a 12-month jail sentence and a three-year driving ban. As the sentence was read out, he let out a huge sigh and there were gasps from his family members, friends and partner in the public gallery.

Two years ago, Braithwaite, who works in the building trade, was given a short driving ban after failing to stop and report an accident and driving without due care and attention following a previous incident in May 2013, when he crashed into several vehicles in the Guisborough Road area. He was said to be using a mobile phone and driving erratically just before the crash. When officers arrived, he ran off but was later arrested at his girlfriend’s home in Castleton.