Published: 00:01, 16 February 2017 |
Updated: 07:10, 16 February 2017
Two schoolboys were left with serious injuries after their taxi was hit by a van driver who got lost travelling to work.
Polish national Robert Jotejko was following his sat-nav after losing his way.
But a judge heard he failed to spot two give way signs and hit a Skoda taking the teenagers to school for their exams.
Both youngsters were trapped after the taxi flipped twice before landing on its roof at the Bramling Road junction with Adisham Downs Road in Bekesbourne.
Jotejko, of Crescent Avenue, Faversham, had only been driving in the UK for four months before the crash in March last year and had been travelling to Dover.
The 41-year-old – who followed the hearing through an interpreter – has now been banned from driving for two years after admitting two charges of causing serious injury by driving dangerously in May last year.
Prosecutor Ian Foinette told Canterbury Crown Court that Jotejko drove straight out of the road without stopping. One onlooker estimated the van’s speed at between 50mph and 60mph.
Mr Foinette said: “When the Peugeot van’s brakes were examined later they were jammed on and one of the brake pipes had been bent.
“The Skoda was left on its roof and debris was strewn across the road.
"There was concern that it might catch fire as smoke was seen coming from it, but fortunately it didn’t and help arrived.”
Mr Foinette said the shocked taxi driver, Rowan Evans, managed to kick his window out and crawl out.
The “blameless” cabbie was praised by the judge for going to the aid of the terrified schoolboys regardless of his own injuries.
One of the schoolboys later told police how he was left scared and suffering a burning pain after the crash and was later treated for four vertebrae compression fractures.
“I was frightened about ending up paralysed,” he said.
One told how he saw the van just before the collision adding: “My next memory was lying on my back in pain inside the overturned taxi waiting for the emergency services to arrive.”
One of the teenagers was then airlifted to King’s College Hospital in London and treated for multiple fractures to his back and ribs.
He added since the crash he has suffered back pain, flashbacks and nightmares.
Builder Jotejko was arrested and told police it was the first time he had been driving in that area and did not know the roads.
Judge Rupert Lowe told him: “The effects of this accident have been profound and immediate and will have long-lasting consequences for each of the victims.
“Pain and discomfort, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of sleep and interrupted education – their lives on hold.
"For them and their families there is a constant fear for the future. This was, for them, a life-changing event.”
He gave Jotejko a 10-month jail sentence suspended for a year and ordered him to do 250 hours of unpaid work for the community.
The judge said he could not be sure “to the criminal standard” that Jotejko had been travelling at a greatly extensive speed.
“What happened that morning will remain with your victims for life and I trust will remain heavily with you for as long as you drive,” he said.
The prosecutor told the judge that the families and the schoolboys, who sat in the public gallery to hear the case, wanted to thank the investigating officer, PC Oliver Nevin, for his help and support since the accident.
The policeman also won praise from the judge.
Meanwhile, the man at the wheel of the taxi has told how he feels sorry for the van driver and did not want him put behind bars.
"For them and their families there is a constant fear for the future... This was, for them, a life-changing event - Judge Rupert Lowe
Rowan Evans, 43, from Sturry, still has nightmares about the horror crash, but sympathises with Jotejko, who he says was remorseful in court.
“I actually feel sorry for him,” he told our sister paper the Kentish Gazette.
“An accident can happen to anyone and that’s what it was, an accident – a loss of concentration.
“I didn’t want him to go to prison. Justice has been served and that’s good enough for me.
"The main thing is that we came out of it alive.”
Mr Evans, who works for Wilkinson Taxis and has been cabbying for 10 years, remembers little of the accident itself.
“We were driving along and then the next thing we’re flying in the air upside down,” he said.
“The car filled up with smoke and I initially thought it was on fire, but it was actually from the airbags going off.
"I climbed out of the driver’s side window and went round the opposite side to the boys.
"There wasn’t much I could do. I couldn’t get them out. I just tried to stop the bleeding on one of them until the emergency services arrived.”
Mr Evans suffered whiplash to his whole body and was off work for eight weeks.
He did not get back behind the wheel for a further month and still refuses to return to the scene of the accident.
“If there’s a job out that way I won’t do it,” he says.
“I still suffer nightmares now. I’m just glad nobody lost their life.”
The scene of the crash has been branded a danger junction with continuing calls for increased safety improvements.
Kent County Council repainted road markings last June, but locals say more needs to be done.
Sara O’Brien, 34, lives near the junction and has questioned figures revealing that 10 people have been hurt in crashes there in the last decade.
Speaking following the taxi crash last year, the scientist said: “There are three accidents this year which are not included in the figures and there are obviously other ones which do not get reported We need more to be done.
"There are signs saying that the crossroads is coming up, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. The word ‘slow’ painted in the road would help.
“We really don’t want to see any more crashes here.”
Miss O’Brien says the main problem with the crossroads is uncertainty about who has right of way.
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