A van driver who said: “What am I going to say to his parents?” when he crashed and killed his teenage apprentice was today (Wednesday) convicted of causing death by careless driving while over the limit for cannabis.
Benjamin Norman, 39, drifted across two lanes of a dual carriageway before smashing into a parked lorry in a lay-by.
The roofer suffered only minor injuries, but 19-year-old Thomas Smith from Kempston was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a tribute, Tom’s family said he was known, was a “very loving and caring boy.”
They said: “His death has left a massive void in our lives that will never be filled. We will always remember the good times and his cheeky smile.”
Luton crown court heard the crash happened on the A421 Bedford bypass between Cardington and Great Barford at around a quarter past seven in the morning of 1 November 2018.
Dash-cam footage from a lorry and a car was played to the jury which showed the impact caused by the van that was travelling at 60mph.
Prosecutor Charles Ward-Jackson said: “A number of motorists stopped to offer assistance and it was quickly established that Thomas Smith had sadly died.
“A lorry driver, Richard Hull, was parked on the other side of the road and crossed to speak to the defendant. The defendant was shocked and said something like: ‘What am I going to say to his parents? He is only 20 years old. I can’t believe I am sat here and he is gone.”
Benjamin Norman passed a police alcohol test, but when asked to take a drug test said: “I will fail that. I had a smoke last night.”
Mr Ward-Jackson said the word smoke – referred to cannabis. He said it was the prosecution case that it was more likely that he had smoked cannabis that day and not just the night before.
He told a police officer: “ I have no idea what happened. I am pretty sure I was in the fast lane. I don’t know if I fell asleep or blacked out.”
Norman was taken to Bedford Hospital and was found to have no internal injuries and only small scratches to his head. He was discharged as fit and taken to Kempston police station.
The prosecutor said the defendant was given a blood test at 11.50am – 13 hours after he claimed he had last smoked cannabis. He was found to have 5.5 mg of cannabis per litre of blood – the legal limit is 2mg.
When questioned by the police he made no comment.
Mr Ward-Jackson said: “Drifting from lane to lane is typical of someone driving while intoxicated by cannabis. The prosecution say the accident would not have occurred had he not smoked cannabis.
“He had consumed so much cannabis the night before, or more likely in the morning, or both that it substantially impaired his driving.”
A collision expert found that the Volvo lorry had been correctly parked, there were no relevant defects to the van, which had its speedometer frozen at 60mph at the time of the collision.
The defence case was that Benjamin Norman had not taken cannabis that morning and lost control of the van because he was suffering from epilepsy that had not been diagnosed at that time.
Since being diagnosed with epilepsy he has surrendered his driving licence, said his lawyer Alesdair King.
Norman, of Foster Road, Wootton, was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, but was convicted of causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit for cannabis.
Judge Lynn Tayton QC adjourned the case for a pre-sentence report to be prepared. Norman was granted bail, but was warned by the judge she would consider all options, including custody.
The sentencing will be some time after 17th February, possibly at Cambridge crown court.