Published: 18:07, 13 December 2019
| Updated: 18:33, 13 December 2019
A learner driver who crashed his car on a level crossing and fled as a train approached has been spared jail.
Jake Chapman, 21, jumped out of the Ford and ran, leaving the vehicle across the tracks near Faversham.
A passenger train travelling at speeds of up to 75mph ploughed into the car, which burst into flames.
Chapman had done nothing to alert authorities before the collision at the Stone Crossing at Buckland, near Norton.
Miraculously, the driver and none of the 20 people on-board were injured.
Maidstone Crown Court was told Chapman, of The Quays, Sittingbourne, already had eight points on his licence, despite not having yet passed a driving test.
Prosecutor Edward Blackman told the court: "It was a Victoria to Faversham service proceeding at 10.40pm as normal at between 75mph and 80 mph.
"It was slowing down as it was going around a blind bend.
"At about 120 yards from the crossing, when the driver realised there was a car on the crossing, he immediately applied his emergency brakes and slowed to between 65mph and 75 mph - but there was insufficient time to stop.
"It struck the car and completely destroyed it. What remained burst into flames. The train managed to stop about 150 yards further on and the driver must have been shaken up because he wouldn't have known if his train had or had not killed anybody."
Police were able to trace the owner of the Ford after finding a number plate among the wreckage on October 24 last year.
Officers then tracked down the previous owner - a relative of Chapman - who told them she had sold it to him just three days earlier.
The court heard Chapman was woken by police at 2.50am but initially denied having the car.
"After being breathalysed he told officers he had been driving and had been with three friends when he lost control of the vehicle and ended up on the track," he explained.
"His three friends ran across a field and Chapman got home by taxi. The car had no MOT certificate, no insurance and he had eight points on his licence."
After being quizzed by police, Chapman, who lived in Edward Road, Queenborough at the time, claimed he had been travelling at 20mph but officers later found eight metres of tyre marks near the crossing.
Passengers on the train were ferried home by 2am, but the line was closed until 11am.
"It struck the car and completely destroyed it. What remained burst into flames..." - prosecutor Edward Blackman
Mr Blackman said the total cost to Network Rail and Southeastern totalled almost £110,000.
Chapman said as his friends ran away he returned to his car to get his phone charger "and it was then he heard the train approaching", before he also fled.
Mr Chapman added: "Her made no attempt to contact the authorities."
Ed Fowler, defending, said Chapman underwent psychological tests which revealed he had "cognitive deficits".
Chapman was given a 19-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to remain indoors for the next four months between 8pm and 6am.
He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work after admitting charges of driving dangerously and endangering the lives of rail passengers.
The judge told him that his "cognitive deficits" were "no excuse" for his behaviour, but he was giving him second chance to get his life in order.
Chapman was also banned from driving for two years.