Published: 00:01, 19 May 2017
A lorry driver involved in a crash which left a Sheppey father-of-two with life-altering injuries has been cleared of careless driving.
Ron Acott, 28, denied the charge at Sevenoaks Magistrates' Court on and today will mark the anniversary of the crash which turned Keith Willis's life upside down.
His Renault Modus aquaplaned when it hit standing water on the A249 underpass beneath the A2 Key Street roundabout.
The car hit the central reservation and spun into the middle of the road straddling two lanes of the Maidstone-bound carriageway.
The court heard as Mr Willis sat in his stationary car, Mr Acott's Volvo HGV ploughed into it.
The accident happened in the early hours of May 19, as Mr Willis, 36, had been driving to work as a lorry driver.
Prosecution witness Guy Wornald, who had been travelling towards his home on the Island, said he saw Mr Willis crash.
He described trying to see if the driver was OK, when he saw the lights of the lorry come over the crest of the hill.
Mr Wornald, also a lorry driver, said: “I was thinking how could I get it to slow down?”
John Russell, prosecuting, said Acott told police he saw the pool of water and checked his mirrors.
When he looked back at the road, he saw the Renault but it was too late to take avoiding action.
The truck hit the car at 56mph, the lorry’s maximum speed, pushing the Renault 64 metres along the road.
Mr Willis had to be cut free from the wreckage and suffered multiple injuries and severe brain injury, which has permanently changed his life.
Ben Holt, defending, pleaded with magistrates to put the outcome of the crash to one side and to focus on whether they believed Mr Acott, from Marden, had been driving carelessly.
He also told the court there had already been two crashes on the stretch of road earlier that evening.
One involved a police officer hitting the same patch of water and crashing into the central reservation while en route to an incident.
Mr Holt said Highways England was asked to make a decision about whether to close the road due to the surface water and blocked drains, but it remained open.
After more than an hour of deliberation, magistrates found Acott not guilty.
Anne Lightbody, chairman of the bench, said by checking his mirrors they believed he had driven competently.
The crash put Mr Willis in a coma for 36 days and changed his life.
He and his wife, Polly, 36, were in court to listen to the hearing but did not want to comment afterwards.
In a previous interview with our sister paper the Sheerness Times Guardian, he said: “That split-second has ruined my life and turned my world upside down.”
Mr Willis’s nightmare began at 3.45am as he drove from his home in Rose Street, Sheerness, to pick up his lorry in Strood.
He was left with shattered ribs, four fractures to his spine, damaged vertebrae, two collapsed lungs and a paralysed intestine.
The shock set off a brain haemorrhage, which caused a stroke he is still trying to recover from. The car was a write-off.
Mr and Mrs Willis said they were considering a claim against the highways agency.
Highways England has been approached for comment.
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