New driver caused deaths of two friends 28 days after passing her test

New driver who caused the deaths of two teenage friends just 28 days after passing her test was spared jail after a judge heard moving pleas from her victims’ families

  • Lara Jensen, 20, crashed her Toyota Aygo in Lincolnshire on August 9 last year
  • The incident took the lives of Ewan McEwan and Grace Wheatley, both aged 19

A new driver who caused the deaths of two teenage friends just 28 days after passing her test was spared jail after a judge heard moving pleas from her victims’ families.

Lara Jensen, 20, was taking a group of young friends to watch the sunset before they all went off to university when she failed to negotiate a forked junction and crossed in-front of an oncoming car.

Grace Wheatley, 19, who was navigating in the front passenger seat and had been due to study fashion and photography at Manchester University, died at the scene of the collision in South Elkington, Lincolnshire.

Art student Ewan McEwan, also 19, who was a back seat passenger in Jensen’s Toyota Aygo, underwent six operations but died two weeks after the crash.

A third passenger in the Toyota, Harrison Steele, also 19, spent eleven days in hospital after suffering multiple injuries in the collision which occurred on August 9, 2022.

Lara Jensen, pictured, was spared prison for a fatal crash that killed two of her friends and seriously injured another

Grace Wheatley and Ewan McEwan, pictured together, both received fatal injuries in the crash in Lincolnshire on August 9, 2022

In a victim impact statement, which he read out in court today, Ewan’s father, John McEwan, said his a 6ft 4in son was a ‘gentle giant. He added: ‘As a family we bare no malice to Lara. She was after all Ewan’s friend.

‘Sending her away will not help in the healing process.’

His thoughts were echoed in a victim impact statement, on behalf of Grace’s family, which was read out by Mr Howes.

Grace, who had a younger brother and sister, and also worked at a local Asda store, was described as ‘sensitive, intuitive, kind hearted and loving.’

‘She had the whole world at her feet.’

The statement added: ‘To us Lara is not a criminal, she is a young driver who made a mistake.’

The friends, all then aged 19, had spent the afternoon having a picnic at Hubbard’s Hills beauty spot in the picturesque Lincolnshire Wolds.

Before going home the group decided to travel to the village of Hatcliffe to watch the sunset together for the last time, Lincoln Crown Court heard.

Phil Howes, prosecuting, said Jensen had passed her test just 28 days previously and became confused by a junction on the A631 between Louth and Market Rasen.

Mr Howes said Grace, from Cleethorpes, was using an App to direct Jensen who indicated to turn right but then missed the first turn-off for the Hatcliffe junction.

Witnesses described Jensen slowing down but then turning right and crossing into the path of a silver Mazda as she tried to enter the second fork of the junction.

The force of the impact knocked the Toyota across the junction, Mr Howes said.

Ewan, pictured, died two weeks after the crash at a junction in South Elkington, Lincolnshire

Grace. pictured, was declared dead at the scene despite witnesses attempting CPR for up to 25 minutes

Grace was declared dead at the scene despite witnesses attempting CPR for up to 25 minutes. The emergency services were also ‘very concerned’ for Harrison and Ewan, Mr Howes added.

The court heard Harrison had no memory of the accident and woke up in a Liverpool hospital after being airlifted from Hull Royal Infirmary.

At the scene Jensen, from Grimsby, was described as ‘hysterical’ and heard to remark: ‘I saw the car coming, but I turned anyway. I don’t know why I did it.’

A police accident investigator concluded Jensen had misjudged the lawful speed and distance of the Mazda, possibly due to her inexperience as a driver.

Jensen, of Grimsby, pleaded guilty to causing the deaths of Grace Wheatley and Ewan McEwan by careless driving, and causing serious injury to Harrison Steele by careless driving.

Lisa Hardy, mitigating for Jensen, admitted it was unlikely she would still be here if not for the kindness shown by the victims’ families.

‘Speaking to her mother, Lara was an A star student who strove to be kind all her life. That is no doubt why Grace and Ewan loved her,’ Miss Hardy said.

Miss Hardy explained how these ‘wonderful young people’ had gone off to watch the sunset before they all went off to university.

Following the collision, Miss Hardy told the court Jensen pushed herself to take up her ‘dream course’ in architecture at Manchester University, but ultimately struggled and dropped out.

Miss Hardy said Jensen now suffered anxiety in cars and was unlikely to drive again.

Jensen, pictured, was spared prison after the families of her friends pleaded for her not to be jailed

Passing sentence Judge Simon Hirst made it clear that while the role of sentencing was ultimately his, but said the generosity of Ewan’s and Grace’s families were deserving of great credit.

‘Grace’s family, with enormous generosity consider, you having to live with the consequences of this is punishment enough,’ Judge Hirst told Jensen.

‘I have also heard from Ewan’s family in an equally generous spirit, they do not bare any malice to you. They do not consider locking you up will help them in the healing process.’

Judge Hirst told Jensen he regarded her driving as an ‘unsafe manoeuvre over a brief period of time,’ adding that there was significant personal mitigation and prospects of rehabilitation which meant he could suspend her jail sentence.

‘It is clear to me that if I send you to custody it will have an impact on Grace’s and Ewan’s families that will not assist them,’ Judge Hirst added.

Jensen was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months. She was also banned from driving for two years and must take an extended driving test.

Source: Read Full Article