A man who killed a woman and seriously injured her son as they were cycling in Brereton Heath has been jailed.
Jonathan Sumner, of Davenport Lane, Arclid, was jailed for eight years and six months at Chester Crown Court on Friday 10 November.
The 33-year-old previously pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving following an incident on 27 April 2020.
Helen Wickham, 53, had been cycling with her son – who was 19 at the time – along the A54 Holmes Chapel Road at around 7.25pm when they were struck by a tractor towing a field roller, driven by Sumner. He stopped at the scene.
Paramedics found the teenager had suffered severe leg injuries and he was taken to hospital for surgery. Helen sadly died at the scene from her injuries.
Cheshire Police received reports of the incident at around 7.40pm and attended the scene. In his initial account, Sumner stated he did not see the cyclists ahead of him, and only realised what had happened when he felt the field roller move and looked in his rear-view mirror.
He claimed he was blinded by the sun, but from witness accounts and revisiting the scene, officers concluded that although the sun was low, Sumner would have had sufficient visibility, with sections of the road in shade. He would have had time to see the cyclists ahead, as they would have been in view from a distance of around 210m.
A vehicle examiner determined there were no faults with the vehicle which would have caused a loss of control. However, Sumner was shown to be travelling in excess of the permitted speed limit of 20mph for the combination of tractor and trailer which he was driving.
A full examination of Sumner’s mobile phone was carried out, which showed he had been using his phone while driving, including viewing images and videos on Snapchat.
This activity was shown to be around one minute before the collision. At the time of the collision, the phone screen was illuminated with a WhatsApp message, although this was not opened at the time.
Sumner was arrested on the day of the incident and released under investigation while enquiries were carried out. He was subsequently charged in August 2022.
As well as his custodial sentence, Sumner will be subject to a five-year driving ban upon his release.
Following Sumner’s sentencing, Helen’s family have paid tribute to her.
“What happened that day was totally avoidable, not only did he take away a wonderful, caring, devoted and selfless person, he also caused our son to sustain serious life- changing physical and mental injuries. We enjoyed a very close family relationship, with a lot of love and losing Helen has left a massive void in our lives.
“Helen was so full of life, she had an amazing smile, bright, sparkling, loving eyes, and her presence would light up any room. She was well loved by all who were fortunate to have been a part of her life.
“Helen was always attending and running social events, she was always there for other people. She approached everything in life with passion and determination. Helen was enthusiastic and a driving force in everything that she did, she really did touch a huge number of lives.
“‘She gave time to love’ is written on Helens’ headstone which sums up the beautiful, wonderful, caring woman Helen was. When she died, everyone who knew her lost someone so very special and that’s the most devastating feeling to have.
“One of hardest things to come to terms with is, life is fragile, it brings it home to you that it can change in a moment.”
Sergeant Simon Degg added:
“Sumner’s actions back in April 2020 have devastated a family and should serve as a reminder of the vital importance of paying full attention while driving.
“Sumner was essentially driving a lethal weapon. He was in control of a combined 11-tonnes, yet he thought it was appropriate to be on his mobile phone.
“This collision was completely avoidable, and I hope the sentence handed to Sumner will provide some form of closure for Helen’s family.
“Our thoughts remain with Helen’s loved ones, and we would like to pay tribute to their bravery throughout the course of this investigation.”