Published: 14:10, 25 May 2021
| Updated: 16:07, 25 May 2021
A learner driver killed a loving couple after losing control of his car with alcohol and cannabis in his system.
Now, Toyota driver Kristiyan Trendafilov, from Tunbridge Wells, has told a judge he feels like "a cold-blooded killer."
The 29-year-old Bulgarian added: "I plead for forgiveness from the family, but I myself have not forgiven myself."
The accident happened on the A228 on October 7, 2018, as victims Shirley and Alan Reygate were returning home from celebrating their granddaughter's birthday.
Trendafilov - who has never taken a driving test - was at the wheel of his mother's car that he had taken without permission after drinking whisky and consuming cannabis.
Prosecutor Paul Valder told Maidstone Crown Court that the accident happened shortly after 11pm as Trendafilov was driving north towards Paddock Wood.
"As he approached a bend near Colts Hill, Mr and Mrs Reygate were driving their Fiat 500 in the opposite direction towards Tunbridge Wells, returning from a family celebration.
"For no obvious reason the defendant lost control on the bend and veered into the wrong lane and collided with Mr and Mrs Reygate's vehicle."
The prosecutor told how two people travelling in other vehicles, Miranda Cook and friend Georgia Crutcher, stopped and helped after seeing debris in the middle of the road.
"They first saw the Toyota on the verge to the right side of the road, partially in the ditch and flames were coming from the front."
Trendafilov had managed to escape with minor injuries but Ms Cook then saw smoke coming from the left side of the road and discovered the Fiat 500 "buried in the hedge and wedged between two trees", the court heard.
"She stayed and comforted Mr and Mrs Reygate as they were struggling to breathe."
Mr Valder said the two friends "effectively took control of the situation until the emergency services arrived, dealing with casualties, did what they could to comfort them and flagging down approaching motorists."
Mr and Mrs Reygate were seriously injured and were taken to hospital where Mrs Reygate, 83, died four days later and her husband, 82, died three months later after never recovering from his injuries
Trendafilov, of St James Road, Tunbridge Wells, has now been jailed for five years and two months after admitting causing the two deaths by dangerous driving.
He changed his pleas to guilty just minutes before his trial was due to begin.
He had been arrested at the scene after failing a breath test - but later tests revealed he was just below the legal limit for alcohol but above the limit for drugs.
Mr Valder said experts said the combination "may very well" have impaired Trendafilov's ability to drive safely.
Mr and Mrs Reygate's daughter, Lisa Cole, read out a victim impact statement in which she revealed her parents were about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary and had planned to go to Gran Canaria for a holiday in November.
She said her mother was a well-known local artist and had a garden studio purpose-built by her father.
"Her other passions were reading, writing and gardening. My dad was a retired building contractor. My parents were extremely kind and generous. They did what they could to help me throughout my life.
"They never considered themselves as elderly and I didn't either. They were proud grandparents and had just bought two second-hand mountain bikes but they never got the opportunity to ride them."
Ms Cole remembered the moment she learned of the crash and told the Judge Julian Smith: "On the way to hospital I knew this was the moment my life was going to change forever."
Judge Smith said: "These cases are always deeply distressing and profoundly sad. The loss caused is catastrophic and the impact of those who have lost loved ones cannot be reflected in any punishment.
"This sentence can never compensate for nor reflect the loss and, quite frankly, nothing could."