The heartbroken father of a younger brother and sister who were killed in an accident on the M4 has sentenced the drunk driver of the van to nine years imprisonment.
Joseph Wheaton also revealed how he had to tell their mother that their daughter was dying and their son was seriously injured. Joseph spent five days praying for his son’s survival and said the tragedy had ‘ruined’ him and his family, reports WalesOnline
The desperate father, who blew raspberries on his son’s stomach in a vain attempt to bring him back, has called the nine-year prison sentence handed down to van driver Martin Newman “ridiculous”. He and other relatives fear he will be missing in four years when they have to mourn at children’s graves all their lives.
READ MORE: Boy with ‘caring soul’ dies following M4 crash in which four-year-old also died
They say they shouldn’t have to seek a longer sentence for the 41-year-old who was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he crashed into the stationary vehicle on the pavement M4 westbound between junctions 28 and 29 at Newport. The horrific crash killed four-year-old Gracie-Ann Lucas, her three-year-old brother Jayden-Lee Lucas was later rushed to hospital but sadly died days later.
The family now want the law changed so that drivers can be convicted for every death they cause, even if it is the same incident. Gracie-Ann and Jayden-Lee, also known as Wheaton, were driving home from a birthday party with their mother Rhiannon Lucas and a friend when their car was hit by the van on the M4.
Mr Wheaton, 24, told WalesOnline: “It’s been the worst year of my life. To have the phone to say my kids were in a car accident, to walk into the hospital room, I looked at my two kids and it didn’t feel right, it broke my heart.
“They [the doctors] told me about Gracie Ann when I was in the hospital and I said I had to tell Rhiannon, it was my job to tell her. Rhiannon’s injuries were really bad, she was trying to grab Gracie Ann and couldn’t do it, it was so bad. We had some hope that Jayden would pull through and we hoped and hoped, but we also had to prepare. “
The family were told that even if he survived his terrible injuries, Jayden-Lee would not be able to walk or talk. “That week I prayed, prayed and prayed,” Mr Wheaton said.
“We had some hope that he was moving, they [the doctors] said he had a gag reflex, I thought “go ahead boy”. I blew raspberries on his belly thinking he’d come around a bit and instead he farted, and I thought ‘he must be in there’ because he was still a funny boy and that has eased the tension a bit.
“Before Jayden passed, we all had to sit down and talk about it and turn it off and I kept saying ‘no, I’m not ready to let it go yet. I can not do it. He can ‘I’m not ready yet. He breathed for about 10 minutes after he was taken off and that was it. And it tore us all to pieces. It ruined us.
Police discovered Newman was more than double the drinking and driving limit after going out with co-workers the night before the accident. He had drunk 10 cans of Strongbow and taken cocaine once he got back to his hotel room. In the police interview, he said he was broken on his return to Wales the following day and had “dozed off” on several occasions.
Newman – who admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, and one of causing serious injury to children’s mother Rhiannon Lucas by dangerous driving, and drunk driving charges and drug driving – was jailed for nine years and four months. He will serve just over four years in prison before serving the rest of his sentence on license.
But the siblings’ family wants their law changed. Mr Wheaton said: “In a few years he will be able to see his children, we will never be able to see ours again. We have to go up to the cemetery to see ours. We cannot visit them, we visit the cemetery. We can’t buy them candy like you do, we buy them flowers.
He added: “It’s ridiculous that they can only give him what, nine and a half, and that will be split in half. This man in court said ‘I just want to go see my kids’ and I thought, ‘how disrespectful, I can’t see my kids, birthdays and Christmas, I have to go up to a cemetery to see my babies.’
Newman was also banned from driving for 10 years with an extension of four years and eight months while in custody. He will have to pass an extended driving test before he can get a license back.
But the family is asking that Newman be sentenced to life for the accident. Mr Wheaton said: “If you get behind the wheel and do that, you can go behind bars. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”
“It killed me, it absolutely broke me in two, knowing I’ll never see them again. The number of times I almost said ‘how are the kids’ and it hits you.” It’s really hard, to see their photos, I can’t even watch them on video because it jumps out at me right away. It is so hard. Sometimes I sit and look at their pictures and think about what happened.”
Paying tribute to them, he said: “They were the funniest kids ever, so full of life. They were the most loving kids. They were good characters. I couldn’t stop laughing at them. I miss them terribly, I can’t think of words, they’ll be there forever to explain how much I miss them.”
The children’s grandfather and father of Rhiannon Lucas, Jason Lucas, 52, said he believed Newman “deserved two life sentences” for killing his grandchildren. He said: “It’s not right, for someone driving drunk and on drugs, to be given such a sentence. He deserves two life sentences.”
“We want the law to change, not just for us but also for other families so they don’t have to go through this. He should be banned for life and should be in prison for life.
“My feeling is he shouldn’t need to be seen again, we shouldn’t have to fight, he should have been given a longer sentence, period. We shouldn’t have to fight this, we We’ve been through enough. Someone could rob a house and look alike, he killed two children.
“If he killed a child he would be 15 anyway, he killed two. It’s life for life. If it was murder he would have life. If he It was an accident, whatever, but he killed them because he was drunk and on drugs. As far as I’m concerned, he should never be allowed out.
At sentencing, Judge Williams said his sentencing powers were limited by guidelines set by Parliament. He said: ‘This is the most serious level of dangerous driving. It was a blatant disregard for the rules of the road and a complete disregard for the danger caused to others by your driving.
“The aggravating characteristics are that you have previous convictions for traffic offenses including driving while intoxicated and using a mobile phone while driving, and secondly the most serious of the aggravating characteristics is that you caused the death of two children and seriously injured their mother who is left with nothing.
“There is no real mitigation in this case. Any remorse you feel rather than self-pity does not affect the sentence this court must impose. You have a limited understanding of the wider consequences for others affected by the collision. As this was a single incident, the court is required to impose concurrent sentences, but to reflect as much as possible the totality of your offense in the sentence handed down.
“The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison. Many believe that such a sentence is insufficient to reflect what you have done and many will ask that this maximum sentence be reconsidered. It is the business of no court but of Parliament. You pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and a reduction cannot be denied due to an inadequate maximum sentence.
The Attorney General’s office confirmed that an appeal of Newman’s sentence was received under the “Unduly Indulgent Sentencing (ULS) Scheme.” Under this scheme, members of the public can apply to the Attorney General’s Office to review sentences handed down by Crown Courts in England and Wales within 28 days of conviction and decide whether to remand or not the case before the Court of Appeal for consideration.
An AGO spokesperson said: “We have received a request for this sentence to be reviewed under the ULS (Unduly Lenient Sentence) program. Court officers have 28 days from the conviction to review the case and make a decision.
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