Published: 13:19, 26 May 2017
A young soldier will be discharged from the Army after being jailed for killing a "greatly loved" woman in a near head-on crash.
Ian Harvey, 24, of Burdett Avenue in Gravesend, admitted causing the death of Susan Hayward, 56, by careless driving.
He had denied causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and was cleared by the jury.
Today, as his and Susan's family wept in the public gallery, he was jailed for two years.
Mrs Hayward’s husband Anthony and his brother Mark were seriously injured in the crash.
Maidstone Crown Court previously heard Harvey confessed at the scene of the crash in Lower Road, Higham that it was his fault.
Another driver had described him travelling at “a phenomenal speed” when overtaken by his Ford Fiesta shortly before the accident on December 5 2015.
Harvey was with his girlfriend and a friend on the unlit single carriageway road travelling towards Higham village at about 8.30pm.
Judge Adele Williams today described the moments which led up to the crash.
"It was a narrow country road on a dark December night," she said.
"You lost control of your steering and lost control of the car and you were then travelling on the wrong side of the road approaching oncoming traffic.
"You said that the steering had gone light. That, in my judgement, is because the wheels were not touching the ground.
"Mark Hayward was driving a car travelling towards you. He had three passengers.
"They have described seeing a car like it was floating and flying towards them."
It was estimated that Harvey was driving at around 65mph in the 50mph limit road.
Harvey's car then collided with Mark Hayward's Ford Focus, which had his wife Christine in the front seat and Anthony and Susan Hayward in the back.
They had left home at 7pm to attend a 50th birthday party at Higham village hall.
Mark Hayward's car then spun completely round so it was facing in the direction it was travelling.
Susan Hayward suffered multiple injuries and died in an ambulance at the scene.
Prosecution counsel Eloise Marshall read out a victim impact statement from Anthony Hayward, who had been with Susan since they were just 16 years old.
"He cannot see a future without Susan and has contemplated suicide. His life has changed beyond belief" - Prosecution Elouise Marshall
It said: "He has been devastated by the fact on the day of her death, he was unable to say goodbye to his wife.
"Susan's death has ripped the two families apart. He does not sleep. He has nightmares where he wakes up in the middle of the night and sees headlights of the car coming towards him.
"He hates being on his own. Since being released from hospital, he suffers from panic attacks every single day.
"He cannot see a future without Susan and has contemplated suicide. His life has changed beyond belief."
Two further victim impact statements were read to the court, one from Mark Hayward and another from Mark's wife Christine, who were both injured in the crash.
Defending Harvey was Ian Bridge, who brought officer commander Ian Hinson, who is in charge of Harvey, to the witness box.
Mr Hinson had known Harvey since November 2016 and described him as having an "impeccable Army career" and as one of the best soldiers he had seen in his 29-year career.
He added that "irreplaceable" Harvey would be discharged from the Army if he was jailed.
Mr Bridge added: "He acknowledged he was at fault at the scene. He is sorry for the pain he has caused to the family.
"Not in the same way as the family, but he will live with this forever.
"He hopes that they will find it in their hearts to give him some measure of forgiveness."
He said Harvey had impeccable character, no previous convictions and a good driving record.
After hearing from both the defence and prosecution, Judge Williams summed up the case before sentencing.
She paid tribute to a "greatly-loved and loving wife, daughter, sister-in-law, aunt and great-aunt".
She added: "She was a person who brought a great deal of joy into people's lives. The family's anguish and loss is great indeed. They are broken-hearted at the loss of Susan Hayward.
"Their lives have been changed forever.
"Nothing that I can say and no sentence I can give can diminish the grief and loss. Their loss is immeasurable.
"You are described as hard-working and you do your job in a professional way and it is said you would have a bright future ahead of you.
"You expressed remorse and you gave assistance to others at the scene of the accident."
She went on to say that the consequences have been "devastating to a large number of people".
Sentencing Harvey to two years imprisonment, she said: "I remind myself that you did not set out to kill anyone.
"There is no doubt that this driving fell not far short of dangerous driving and falls into the most serious category."
Harvey will also be disqualified from driving for three years.