Adam Garthwaite jailed for St Giles-in-the-Heath crash which killed Paul Garcia
A teenage driver has been jailed for killing a father-of-two when he lost control of his car while eating crisps.
Agriculture student Adam Garthwaite lost control of his van as he was driving back from college and veered across a country road on the Devon Cornwall border before crashing head on into an oncoming car.
The other driver Paul Garcia, 38, who lived with his wife and two young children in Launceston, Cornwall, was killed instantly by the impact.
Garthwaite had already left other motorists terrified in the minutes before the crash by tailgating two cars and overtaking them at speed as he drove through St Giles-in-the-Heath.
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He had no memory of how he became distracted in the seconds before the accident but police found a half full bag of crisps in the car and believe he took his eyes off the road to eat them.
Garthwaite, 19, sobbed uncontrollably throughout the hearing at Exeter Crown Court, which was packed with members of his and the victim’s families.
Before the accident he was a prize winning young farmer who had won an award as Shepherd of the Year and already had his own flock.
Garthwaite, of Hele Lane, Frithelstock, admitted causing death by careless driving and dangerous driving and was jailed in a young offenders institution for 12 months and banned from driving for two years by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC.
The judge told him:”I accept you have been clearly affected by the consequences of this accident but I also have to consider the consequences for the deceased’s widow and his two very young children, which are entirely predictable in the circumstances.
“Before this accident, while driving through St Giles-in-the-Heath, you overtook at speed near a bend and in the face of oncoming traffic.
“Some three miles further along the road you crossed into the oncoming carriageway and caused a head on collision. There was no obvious reason why you drove onto the wrong side of the road.
“This was a case of inattention. The positioning of your car on the wrong side of the road may not have been deliberate but it created a very obvious danger and had fatal consequences.
“There is no explanation other than you were not concentrating on driving and allowed you car to become a serious danger to others. You had driven dangerously in St Giles-in-the-Heath, but that was some miles away.
“I consider this case comes into a category of falling not far short of dangerous driving.”
Mr Andrew MacFarlane, prosecuting, said Garthwaite was driving back from the Duchy College at Callington and had a friend in the car with him.
The dangerous driving took place just before and inside St Giles-in-the-Heath where he overtook two cars in such an alarming way that one passenger called him a plonker and a learner driver told her instructor that he would end up in hospital.
Police experts could find nothing to explain the crash until they examined the inside of his car.
Mr MacFarlane said:”They found a quantity of crisps on the dashboard and the thought occurs that he may have been consuming them, although he denied that possibility.”
Mr Jason Taylor, defending, said Garthwaite is so racked by guilt that he is now a broken shell of a man, who accepts he deserves to be punished and has written a letter of apology to Mr Garcia’s widow.
He said before the crash he ran his own farming business as well as studying at college and was a prominent Young Farmer, winning an award as Young Shepherd of the Year.
Mr Taylor said:”The evidence in this case points to inattention, whether because he was talking to his passenger or because of the bag of crisps.”
VIDEO: Adam Garthwaite entry for a farmers weekly competition: