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Grandfather left paralysed after crash on M2 in Gillingham

A grandfather left paralysed after a crash involving a disqualified driver has had to relearn the names of his own children.

Raymon Rennalls was hit by a car being followed by police on the M2 in Gillingham.

Hughie Coyle. Picture: Kent Police
Hughie Coyle. Picture: Kent Police

The crash happened in the forecourt of the Medway services in May last year.

Now the driver of the other car, Hughie Coyle, 22, from Stanford Le Hope, has been jailed for four years and two weeks after admitting causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He has also been banned from getting behind the wheel for just under seven years.

A victim impact statement written by his daughter, Mia Rennalls, was heard at the sentencing at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday.

She wrote: "As a man of 60, he has been condemned to a life of full-time care, brain damaged and paralysed. He has spent the past year in and out of intensive care and high dependency units, undergoing operation after operation due to so much of his body being broken.

"At a stage in his life when he should be winding down and enjoying his grandchildren, he is having to learn basic tasks such as holding a conversation, eating, family members' names and faces.

"It is clear that Coyle was going to do anything to get away and showed a complete disregard for anyone's safety..."

"I didn't hear his voice until February this year and he has only remembered my name twice. I cannot express in words the devastation you feel when your own father doesn't know your face. My heart just breaks. It's like I'm grieving for someone who is still alive.

"The dad I knew has gone. My children have lost their grandad. We have been robbed of a dad and a grandad and are trying to find a way through the damage and pick up the pieces we have left."

The court heard how Coyle's Volvo V70 struck a Citroen Berlingo, driven by Mr Rennalls. The crash flung him out of his car.

He suffered a catastrophic injury, broken ribs, spine fractures and his left ear was also 'amputated' in the crash in which the Volvo burst into flames.

PC Tony Jarvis told the hearing: "It was clear the driver was going to do anything to get away if he suspected we were police. "There was complete disregard for anyone's safety and the obvious risk of injury or serious damage being caused."

"It's like I'm grieving for someone who is still alive..."

Coyle carried on driving, despite the flames, hitting a second vehicle, a VW Golf, before fleeing on foot leaving his passenger in the car.

Police officers later arrested Coyle but he was said to have been 'acting as if it was a joke' as Mr Rennalls lay at the roadside.

Judge Tony Baumgartner said Coyle's driving "in my opinion was extremely dangerous".

He added: "Your driving involved a deliberate decision to ignore, or at the very least a flagrant disregard for, the rules of the road and a disregard for the apparent dangers to others.

The judge added: "It is clear that Coyle was going to do anything to get away and showed a complete disregard for anyone's safety."

Maidstone Crown Court
Maidstone Crown Court

The judge told him: "This was very bad driving, aggravated by the catastrophic injuries which were caused and then you cowardly fled the scene."

In a separate incident in August last year, Coyle was one of four men ordered to leave a bar in Beckenham when he punched one of the men, breaking his victim's nose.

The judge told him it was "thuggish behaviour which will not be tolerated by decent thinking folk in the community".

He added: "You seem to think the rules which apply to everyone else don't apply to you. I take that as a sign of your immaturity."

Coyle, who also admitted assault and driving while disqualified, was banned from driving for six years, eight months and seven days.

Kent Police referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct due to the proximity of the unmarked police vehicle prior to the collision.

An investigation found no fault on behalf of the officers who had been pursuing Coyle.

Investigating officer PC Dawn Smith, of Kent Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit said: "Coyle’s reckless and dangerous driving endangered himself and other road users and resulted in an innocent member of the public receiving serious life changing injuries which he has to face every day.

"Coyle attempted to evade officers prior to the collision and immediately after and continued to do so even after he was charged. I’m pleased he has been sentenced and I hope this can offer a little comfort to those affected by his actions on this day."

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