A tractor driver who was using a social media app when he killed a cyclist and left her son, who was riding with her, with life-changing injuries, has been jailed for eight years and six months.
A Cheshire Constabulary police officer said that Jonathan Sumner, aged 33 and from Arclid, Cheshire, “was essentially driving a lethal weapon” at the time of the fatal crash in which 53-year-old Helen Wickham lost her life.
Her son, aged 19 at the time, sustained serious leg injuries in the crash, which happened at around 7.25pm on 27 April 2020 on the A54 Holmes Chapel Road.
Sumner, who was towing a roller behind his tractor at the time and had pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving at an earlier hearing, was sentenced at Chester Crown Court yesterday.
He had claimed not to have seen the cyclists due to low sun, but collision investigators from Cheshire Constabulary established that they would have been visible from a distance of more than 200 metres.
It was also established that he was exceeding the 20mph speed limit to which his his tractor and trailer was restricted, and that he had been using his mobile phone at the time of the crash, including checking Snapchat images and videos.
Once released from jail, Sumner will be banned from driving for five years.
Following the sentencing hearing, Ms Wickham’s family said: “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 Helen’s' 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,” the family added.
Investigating officer Sergeant Simon Degg said: “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,” he added.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.