Published: 16:30, 18 August 2017
A semi-professional football player who crashed into a medieval bridge after a boozy work night out has been banned from driving.
Ben Emery, 23, of Westgate-on-Sea, Thanet, caused £75,000 of damage to Teston Bridge near Maidstone after repeatedly ploughing his car into the parapet on Saturday, August 5.
The Belmont Road resident, who has no previous convictions, admitted drink driving at almost twice the legal limit at his first appearance before magistrates today.
The court heard Emery, who plays for the Herne Bay Football Club, had been out in town with work colleagues the previous evening.
He had arranged to stay with a friend but when unable to contact them had attempted to drive to their house.
Just after 1am the project manager was heading along Teston Lane at 40mph when he swerved to avoid an oncoming Renault Clio. He went straight into the Grade I listed crossing.
David Liu, prosecuting, said Emery's white BMW convertible was written off in the accident, while the bridge was left with two cracks of at least 10 ft on the wall as well as dislodged stonework protruding six inches out over the River Medway.
In mitigation, Toby Burrough, defending, said Emery was ashamed and embarrassed to be appearing before the court, but he had been open and honest about what happened.
He said Emery, who also coaches children and young people with special needs, had reported the crash to the police and admitted what he had done at the first opportunity.
He said: "Mr Emery is thankful that despite his stupidity nobody was injured or worse because that could have so easily happened."
Jean Sanderson, chairman of the bench, said Emery was lucky to be alive and to not have harmed others.
She said said: "I am sure you don't need me to spell out to you how foolish that was and it will take a very long while to come to terms with how foolish your actions were."
Emery was banned from driving for 18 months. He was also fined £560, will have to pay £85 court costs and a £56 victim surcharge. He is also required to complete a driver rehabilitation course.
Compensation will be paid to Kent County Council, who maintain the bridge. This will come from Emery's insurance company.
The Grade I listed crossing has been closed since Monday after an inspection by highways officals found the stonework at risk of collapsing into the river.
Workers are currently putting up scaffolding before repairs can begin. These are expected to be completed by September 3.
Teston Lane carries in excess of 5,000 vehicles a day and drivers face long diversions and boaters have been banned from going under the structure.
On Tuesday it emerged a driver ignored the closure and crashed through temporary barriers, putting more lives at risk.
A Kent County Council spokesman said at the time: “We would like to remind drivers the bridge has been closed for safety reasons.
“By disregarding the road closure they are not only committing an offence but putting themselves and potentially our workforce at risk.”.
Mark Smurthwaite, chairman of the Medway River Users Association, said: “It is very concerning to see vehicles can do that amount of damage.
“The river was shut for nine months before for the refurbishment of the lock, so this is a blow to the community.
The incident comes just over a year after a lorry crashed into the structure, resulting in another closure in June 2016.
KCC has instructed a contractor to build scaffolding to secure the structure. This is due to be completed by Sunday.
A diversion route involves Tonbridge Road, Bow Road, Maidstone Road, Hampstead Lane, Benover Road, High Street, Yalding Hill and Lower Road.