A dad-of-four ploughed into a motorcyclist after ‘chasing a red light’ in his stepdad’s car – which he’d taken without permission and wasn’t legally allowed to drive.
Nicholas Sweeney, 33, sent Wayne Heath, 56, ‘flying into the air’ after crashing into the dad’s Yamaha motorbike on Ashton Road after both men drove through an amber light.
Mr Heath, who had been driving home from work at the time of the horror collision, suffered catastrophic injuries and told a passer-by who came to his aid he ‘couldn’t breathe.’ Paramedics rushed to the scene but pronounced him dead a short time later.
Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard that on the afternoon of January 18 this year, Sweeney took his stepdad’s Vauxhall Insignia for a drive without asking. He only had a provisional licence and wasn’t insured to drive the car.
A short time later Sweeney returned home where he was said to have dropped to his knees and told his mum ‘what have I done’ before admitting ‘I think I’ve killed someone.’
In a statement read to the court Mr Heath’s son said he had lost his ‘best friend’ following the tragedy and that he had been prescribed antidepressants to cope with his grief.
The court heard that Sweeney had been on the road for a matter of minutes when he collided with the motorbike being driven by Mr Heath, after he attempted to turn right into Hathershaw Lane.
Prosecuting, Amanda Johnson read the statement of one witness, who said she had been driving along Ashton Road towards Oldham that afternoon when she was overtaken by a motorbike travelling at “considerable” speed.
“Another witness was walking along the road and as he approached he could see the junction with the traffic lights,” she said. “He then heard a collision and a loud bang and saw a person in the air.”
Ms Johnson told the court Mr Heath could be heard talking and said he ‘couldn’t breathe.’ “The witness held his neck to support him as they waited for paramedics to arrive but sadly he was pronounced deceased at the scene,” she said.
An examination of the scene was carried out which ascertained that the Vauxhall being driven by Sweeney was travelling in a southernly direction and Mr Heath had been travelling north.
The speed limit along the road was 30mph. The court heard that Sweeney was travelling at the speed limit and Mr Heath had been travelling at around 58mph.
At around 16.06pm that afternoon, the traffic light changed from green to amber as both Sweeney and Mr Heath were approaching the junction.
Ms Johnson said that despite both men having ‘sufficient time’ to react and stop to the amber light, they both carried on driving. A short time later the car being driven by Sweeney drove into the path of Mr Heath and the two collided.
Mr Heath’s son said in a statement that on the day of the crash, just hours before, he had spoken to his father and had planned to go out with him that evening.
He later received a call from a friend who asked him if he’d crashed his motorbike. The court heard Mr Heath’s son messaged his father to check he was okay but didn’t receive a reply so went to the scene himself.
Reading the statement, Ms Johnson said: “He saw the scene of the collision with crowds of people and the police. At worst he thought his father might have suffered minor injuries but he was then told his dad had died by police at the scene.
“He said he couldn’t explain the feeling but it didn’t feel real. He couldn’t believe his dad was left in the road by the defendant who decided to flee the scene.”
His son continued: “Nothing is the same. He was my best friend. We talked everyday. He was there for me whenever I needed him. I can never have a relationship like that with anyone else.
“My dad lived a basic happy life. He used a motorbike every day and had been driving since he was 18. He had never had a serious collision until this day. He worked everyday only to have everything taken away from him in a second by a person who should not have been on the road.
“Since his death I have been on antidepressants and suffer with severe anxiety. He (Sweeney) will be out living his life when he has destroyed mine. I don’t get excited about anything anymore. I’m just a mess.”
Oliver Jarvis, defending, said his client was “sorry” for his actions that day and that he too had been suffering with anxiety and depression since the crash.
“This case obviously passes the custody threshold it is whether or not that sentence can be suspended,” Mr Jarvis added as he pleaded with the court not to send his client to prison.
Sweeney, of Chestnut Crescent, Oldham, was jailed for nine months and banned from driving for three years, after admitting aggravated vehicle taking and causing death by careless driving.
Sentencing, Judge Bernadette Baxter said: “ This is a truly tragic case in which a much loved father has lost his life. You have the life long burden of knowing your actions caused his death.
“I accept that you are genuinely remorseful for your actions. Mr Heath would have had time to stop for the lights. You were travelling at the correct speed and also would have had time to stop. You should not have been on that road at all.
“In mitigation you are a father of four young children and I take consideration of the victim’s excessive speed. But the message must go out to drivers that you cannot take cars without the owner’s permission.
“Knowing that you were not legally allowed to drive on the road you were not taking particular precaution. As you said to probation you were ‘chasing a red light.’ I would be failing my public duty if I didn’t send you to immediate custody.”