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Hadlow man Padam Limbu not guilty of causing mum's death after fatal crash on A26 Tonbridge Road

A former Gurkha soldier who served in the Falklands war has been cleared of causing the death of his mother following a head-on collision.

Hadlow man Padam Limbu, of Trench Road, was returning from Maidstone on the A26 Tonbridge Road in his Toyota Auris with his wife and mother after a day out shopping in 2019 when tragedy struck.

Padam Limbu, left, leaves court with his son
Padam Limbu, left, leaves court with his son

Sukh Mati Limbu, 82, died from multiple severe injuries when her son's car drifted into the wrong lane and collided with an oncoming Vauxhall Astra, which was carrying Patrick McCarthy and his grandson Robert Nikhwai, on July 21.

During a trial at the Nightingale Court at the Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel it was heard how Limbu, his wife Rupmya Limbu and Mr McCarthy all suffered serious injuries, while Mr Nikhwai, a front seat passenger in the Vauxhall was left with minor injuries.

Limbu was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving and two more counts of serious injury by dangerous driving, however, these were later dropped and an indictment of causing death by careless driving was substituted.

During the three-day hearing prosecutor Charles Evans read statements from Mr Nikhwai, as well as witnesses Sonny Sebastian and Sunhita Paul who were in an Audi behind Mr McCarthy and saw the accident.

Mr Sebastian and Ms Paul both detailed seeing Limbu’s car drift across the white line “within a matter of seconds” and then smash into the Vauxhall.

"The next thing I heard is shouting, crying and the cutting of a saw through my car window..."

Mr Evans explained speed was not an issue - both drivers were below the 60mph limit. The limit on the road has since dropped to 40mph.

Forensic collision investigator David Burley said there was no evidence of braking, or any defects or of Limbu suffering a medical episode.

Mr Burley confidently said he didn’t think Limbu had fallen asleep at the wheel as he had negotiated a bend which needed his attention just moments before.

Further evidence from Mr Nikhwai stated he had seen Limbu drifting across the middle white line of the road 20 metres away and "within three to five seconds" the crash happened.

However, defending barrister Alister Smith explained to the jury that if both cars were doing a combined speed of 80mph then the time before any impact, assuming both vehicles were 20 metres way, would be around 0.62 seconds.

The fatal crash happened on the A26 Tonbridge Road between Ashes Lane and Cuckoo Lane
The fatal crash happened on the A26 Tonbridge Road between Ashes Lane and Cuckoo Lane

He cited evidence given earlier from Mr Burley which said the average reaction time for drivers is around two seconds, meaning Limbu Limbu would only have had a short time to react to his car drifting.

He added how there was no tyre marks on the road, showing that neither car seemed to react quickly enough to the accident.

Mr Smith read a number of statements from friends, family and colleagues of the veteran who served in the army for 18 years, before moving to Tonbridge in 2005.

The 60-year-old was described as an "honest, loyal and hard-working man," as well as a cautious, careful and competent driver.

Giving evidence himself Limbu said he drove up and down the A26 Tonbridge Road around three to four times a week and had never been involved in a crash. He also has no points on his licence.

"He is an honest, loyal and hard-working man..."

He can't recall much of the accident apart from a "very big bang", before adding: "The next thing I heard is shouting, crying and the cutting of a saw cutting through my car window."

The next thing the Hadlow man says he remembers is talking with friends and family just under two weeks later on August 4.

After around an hour of deliberation the jury, made up of eight men and four women, found Limbu not guilty.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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