Ambulance driver killed stroke patient, 76, by failing to secure her
Ambulance driver, 61, who killed stroke patient, 76, by failing to secure her stretcher properly with a harness and crashing in almost head-on collision with a tipper lorry at 37mph is jailed
- Emrys Roberts, 61, smashed into oncoming van with a ‘vacant stare’ on his face
- In back of his ambulance, 76-year-old Janet Winspear received fatal injuries
An ambulance driver was jailed for eight months today after he failed to strap a patient in properly then crashed almost head-on into a tipper lorry, killing her.
Emrys Roberts, 61, smashed into the oncoming van with a ‘vacant stare’ on his face, fatally injuring 76-year-old Janet Winspear in the disaster on the A470 near Dolgellau in April 2021.
Mrs Winspear had been recovering from a stroke when she was picked for transfer to a different hospital by Roberts, an ex-firefighter who had received a bravery award.
But tragedy struck when he drifted into the opposite lane on a single carriageway after he was spotted ‘straddling’ the central white line.
Grandmother Mrs Winspear’s ‘greatest fear was a road traffic accident’ after losing a family member in a crash, Caernarfon Crown Court was told.
Janet Winspear, 76, who had a fear of dying in a car accident was fatally injuries in the crash
Emrys Roberts, 61, smashed into oncoming van with a ‘vacant stare’ on his face in April 2021
The pensioner came free of three straps and was hurled about the inside of the non-emergency patient transport ambulance.
An over-the-shoulder safety harness should have been attached, prosecutor James Coutts said.
Recorder John Philpotts told Roberts, 61, of Bangor, who admitted causing death by careless driving : ‘You were partly responsible at the start of the journey for securing Mrs Winspear on the stretcher.
‘I am told it had become common practice not to use the shoulder harness but that doesn’t make the error any the less serious.’
The judge said the pensioner had been ‘dislodged’ from the stretcher during the crash on a 50mph stretch of the A470 near Dolgellau in April 2021.
Mrs Winspear was being driven by the Welsh ambulance service from a hospital at Caernarfon, where she had been recovering well from a stroke, to a hospital at Dolgellau.
Mr Coutts said Dean Davies, in a tipper vehicle, saw the approaching ambulance appearing to straddle the centre white lines and Roberts’s eyes appeared wide open and he had a ‘vacant’ look.
‘All of a sudden the vehicle came straight across into his lane,’ counsel said. It was an almost head-on smash, both vehicles doing 37mph at the point of impact. There was no evidence that Roberts had braked.
Emrys Roberts, 61, of Llys Adda, Bangor, north Wales, who was jailed for eight months after he pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving
Widower Roberts was a former fireman who’d received a chief officer’s commendation following the attempted rescue of a family in a house fire
Roberts told police : ‘I honestly don’t know what happened. I was going to the hospital.’
Mrs Winspear, a grandmother, died on the way to hospital at Bangor. She had severe chest trauma.
Mr Coutts said the importance of the safety harness had been reiterated since the tragedy.
He remarked : ‘Although documented in training and policies, and what was expected in terms of transporting patients, as a matter of course it seems unfortunately people within the Trust were not complying with that requirement.’
Mrs Winspear’s widower Alan died in June last year ‘of a broken heart,’ their son Timothy Winspear said in a victim statement. He added that his mother’s ‘greatest fear’ was a road accident.
Michael Winspear told the judge : ‘Losing mum had a profound effect on all our family.’ His father’s health began to suffer. He had been a devoted and loving husband.
‘When dad passed away, he passed without seeing the justice for the loss of our mum,’ Mr Winspear declared.
The prosecutor added that Dean Davies and Roberts’s colleague Cai Roberts both had broken sternums.
Richard Edwards, defending, said Roberts was involved in the initial securing of Mrs Winspear and then he’d been driving. The defence had explored whether a medical issue could explain the defendant’s driving on the day. He had no memory of the tragedy and had also suffered fractures, spending three weeks in hospital.
Widower Roberts was a former fireman who’d received a chief officer’s commendation following the attempted rescue of a family in a house fire. ‘His working life has been spent helping others,’ the barrister remarked. ‘This is a defendant truly and genuinely remorseful for what has happened.’
Mr Roberts was called a ‘defendant truly and genuinely remorseful for what has happened’
He showed no emotion when sentenced.
Recorder Philpotts said the ‘serious’ piece of careless driving was ‘the stuff of motoring nightmares.’
The judge said : ‘It’s a serious case because the deceased lady was vulnerable.’
He added to Roberts : ‘It gives this court no pleasure, but I am afraid appropriate punishment can only be achieved by you serving that sentence immediately. It’s a tragedy primarily for Mrs Winspear’s family but also, to a lesser extent, for you.’
A 16 months driving ban was imposed.
The victim’s family declined to make any further comment when leaving court.
Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: ‘On behalf of everyone at the Welsh Ambulance Service, our thoughts and condolences remain with Mrs Winspear’s family through what has been – and continues to be – a very upsetting time.
‘Our job as an ambulance service is to protect life, so this has been devastating beyond measure for all involved.
‘Mr Roberts no longer works for the service but was acting in the course of his employment when the accident occurred, and it’s why we have taken a number of actions since Mrs Winspear’s death to ensure crews and patients remain safe on board our vehicles, including improved safety features, a quality assurance scheme and reviewing our approach to vehicle inspection and training of staff.’
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