Yorkshire driver 'distracted by a spider' crashed into pedestrian crossing which fell and killed woman
A motorist 'distracted by a spider' crashed into a pedestrian crossing which then fell onto and killed a 58-year-old woman, a court heard.
Edvinas Gilius, 31, was trying to swipe away the spider dangling from his car roof as he attempted to turn right at a busy road junction.
However, he lost control of his Mercedes-Benz C220 which then mounted the pavement and struck the pedestrian crossing pole head-on.
The pole fell on Janet Cawood, 58, who had been waiting to cross the road in the centre of Bradford, West Yorkshire, at 12.30pm on August 3, 2018.
Miss Cawood was knocked to the ground and briefly fell unconsciousness before being rushed to Leeds General Infirmary.
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Gilius, who came over to the UK ten years ago, voluntarily attended Trafalgar House police station where he told officers he had been distracted by a spider descending from the roof of his car.
He pleaded guilty to causing death by driving without due care and attention last month.
Lithuanian national Gilius, of Bradford, avoided jail and was handed a 12-month community order at Bradford Crown Court.
In an emotional victim impact statement read out in court from sister Sally Cawood, she said: “My sister was cheated of her retirement and the things she planned to do. Janet had worked hard throughout her life.
“I just keep thinking of her on the pavement and feel guilty that I couldn't help her, I was powerless to help my sister.
“Janet was fully fit and healthy and to see her body broken and maimed at the hospital, sent me into shock.
“Even though I did not see the accident, I visualise it all the time. I could not help her. I could not say goodbye.
“The driver made Janet suffer indignities and lose her life and my suffering will continue. He has broken both of us in differing ways.
“I feel I have been condemned, losing her in such a way and to see her suffering because of someone's stupidity and lack of attention.
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“I hope the driver recalls what he did and, as am I, is haunted by the image of Janet in distress and the suffering he has caused. He should never forget what he has done.”
Prosecuting, Jonathan Sharp told the court Miss Cawood was struck by the pedestrian crossing post and Gilius' car.
He said: “He mounted the kerb, he continued for a short distance without significant braking, and rammed head-on into a post near the junction which held the controls for a pedestrian crossing there.
“The impact was such that it left a large dent centrally in his bumper.
“The deceased, Janet Cawood had been standing waiting for the lights to change in her favour. The post struck her, as did the front of Gilius' vehicle.
“The impact forced her to the ground, causing catastrophic head injury as well as multiple blunt-force injuries to the body with 36 separate areas of injury identified post mortem.
"Gilius called 999 and remained at the scene. He was later taken to Trafalgar House police station, where he was voluntarily interviewed under caution.
“He admitted not having been concentrating on the road ahead. He claimed he had been distracted by a spider that had suddenly descended from the roof of the car.
“He admitted that he had taken his eyes off the road while he repeatedly tried to brush the spider away.”
Gilnius had six penalty points on his licence for speeding offences at the time of the crash in August last year.
Mitigating, Philip Morris told a court the defendant has shown heartfelt remorse and has not driven since the accident.
He said: “The defendant sent an email through the police officer involved in this case in which he is prompt and immediate expressing his heartfelt regret and remorse.
“It is the first time he has been able to express his profound apology to Miss Cawood for the accident that so sadly took her sister's life.
“There is no racing or showing off, it's a profound regret to him that he has allowed himself to be so obviously distracted by something inside his vehicle as to not pay attention to the road ahead.
“We all acknowledge this was an avoidable distraction and the nature of the accident is entirely of his own doing.
“He is a law-abiding man who has been profoundly affected by his own actions in this case.
“The reminder of this incident will be far longer lasting than any order or sentence.”
Passing down the sentence, Judge Jonathan Gibson said: “First of all, nothing I can say or do can adequately reflect the catastrophic loss that was caused that day.
“There was, of course, the fatality and the effect on Janet Cawood's sister is immeasurable.
“As I have already said, when I read her statements, I found them very moving and her personal loss is great indeed.
“You had been standing at traffic lights, you began to negotiate a sweeping right-hand turn and it can be seen on CCTV that you began to take that turn in a normal fashion and at a normal speed.
“During that manoeuvre, for possibly two seconds or so you were distracted. You told the police it was by a spider.
“You should have slowed or if necessary stopped and should have certainly kept your eyes on the road. You didn't and the consequences were fatal.”
Gilnius was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
He was also disqualified from driving for three years and told to pay £320 in court costs.