A drink driver who "lost control" of his car while "travelling well in excess of the 20mph speed limit" the morning after a New Year's Eve drinking session, hitting and causing the death of a cyclist, has been jailed for 32 months.
Laura Duncalfe suffered serious head injuries and later died on 23 January 2022, Craig Wagner admitting causing her death by careless driving while over the drink drive limit and being sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment at Newcastle Crown Court.
A reporter from Chronicle Live was in court to see Wagner sentenced and hear evidence about the collision on the morning of New Year's Day last year.
The court heard how Ms Duncalfe's Garmin cycling computer paused at 9.08am as she passed the entrance to a car park on St Lawrence Road in Newcastle, a collision occuring as 31-year-old Wagner, driving home the morning after a New Year's drinking session, lost control of his vehicle and hit the cyclist, the impact so severe that her helmet remained embedded in the windscreen.
Wagner immediately called for an ambulance and remained at the scene, where he told officers he "lost control because I was going about 30 maybe 40" and returned two positive breath tests for alcohol, one at the scene and one at the police station at 10.15am.
The latter test, the lower reading of the two, was 47 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath, above the legal limit of 35. In a subsequent statement, Wagner accepted that he was driving and said he had "pulled out to overtake a parked car" when the incident occured.
"My recollection is that I saw a cyclist on the road coming towards me," he said. "She moved towards my left and so I moved to the right to go around her, however as I did this she swerved back to my right as well, she was on the road not the pavement when the collision took place although I went onto the kerb afterwards.
"After the collision I went to her to provide assistance and I phoned an ambulance; I went back to my car to get something to put over her, I moved my car and the cycle in order to make sure the road was clear for the ambulance."
Prosecutor Ian West told the court how the incident had occured six hours after Wagner was seen in Newcastle city centre, at 3am, after an evening of drinking at a friend's flat and then in "a number of bars".
He said: "Between 7pm and about 9.30pm, the defendant and his friends were drinking alcohol in the flat prior to going into Newcastle by taxi. There, they visited a number of bars. The defendant is captured on CCTV footage in the city centre at after 3am.
"One of the friends returned at 4.45am to find the defendant sleeping in his bed. He woke him, and the defendant moved to the sitting room. At approximately 9am, the defendant left the flat and got into his car to return home. His route took him in a westerly direction along St Lawrence Road.
"The speed limit for St Lawrence Road at that point is 20 mph. While approaching a nearside left-hand bend prior to Foundry Court, the defendant's car moved into the opposite side of the road. The offside front wheel of his vehicle struck the kerb on the north side of the carriageway, deflating the front offside tyre, mounted the pedestrian pavement and collided with Laura Duncalfe, who was still seated on her pedal cycle."
The forensic collision report was clear when looking into the cause of the collision, stating "Craig Wagner lost control of his vehicle due to inattention whilst travelling well in excess of the 20 mph speed limit."
It continued: "Whilst he attempted to steer and brake prior to striking the kerb to his offside, he was unable to regain control of his vehicle prior to the impact. The front of Craig Wagner's Peugeot motor car collided with the pedal cyclist, Laura Duncalfe, at a point most likely to have been to the north side of the eastbound lane of the main carriageway, within the junction mouth, or a combination of these locations."
Wagner was jailed for 32 months and banned from driving for five years, any continuation of driving dependent on passing an extended driving test.
His legal representation, Paul Cross, called his client's actions a "momentary lapse" and argued Wagner is an "otherwise thoroughly upright citizen" with "genuine remorse".
"He remained at the scene of the collision and did what he could to help Laura," he said. "This case is undoubtedly a terrible tragedy for Laura and her family, but it is also a tragedy or the defendant who will lose his career and his house. Whether he will be able to start again from scratch is an uncertainty."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.