Teenager jailed after fatal crash

A teenagers been sentenced to 15 months in prison after she admitted killing on of her friends after her car was in a collision on the A47 last year.

Nineteen year old Eleanor Coleman,  of School Road in Runham, was driving four friends back to the Great Yarmouth area after Halloween celebrations in Norwich last November 1, when her Fiat Punto collided with a lorry in a lay-by on the A47 at North Burlingham. Coleman and three of her friends were pulled from the wreckage and taken to hospital with serious injuries, but a fourth friend, 18-year-old Ellie Tweed of Hemsby, died at the scene.

On the evening of 31 October 2011 Eleanor met six of her friends at an address in Martham where they put on fancy dress costumes and drank sangria. The group then all travelled in the Fiat to Acle Train Station but the last train had left so all seven continued on to Norwich Train Station in the car.

Once in Norwich the group went to several clubs and bars. Coleman took a quantity of MDMA and smoked a quantity of cannabis. Two of the friends made their own way home, and at 5am the five remaining travelled back towards Great Yarmouth in the car.

At 5.22am the Fiat collided with a lorry parked in the lay-by on the A47. The rear seat passengers had not been wearing their seatbelts. The car caught fire, and the lorry driver and passers-by managed to get four of the teenagers out of the car before the fire fully took hold. Coleman told the passers-by and an officer that there had only been four people in the car, gave false names for her and her friends and said she had not been driving. When the Fire Service confirmed that Ellie Tweed remained in the vehicle and had died, Coleman also gave false details for her. A driving licence belonging to a woman who was not in the car was also found as officers searched for documentation to identify the casualties.

All four survivors of the collision were taken to hospital having suffered serious injuries ranging from a broken neck, facial palsy and a punctured lung to loss of taste and smell and a fractured skull which had to be repaired by metal plates. Whilst at hospital samples were taken from Coleman which tested positive for MDMA and THC-acid, which are consistent with her having used MDMA and cannabis.

Coleman, in a later interview with police, admitted driving the car, but could not remember leaving Norwich or the collision itself. She was summonsed to appear in court to answer a charge of causing death by careless driving in July 2012, and on Wednesday 3 October 2012 pleaded guilty to the charge. She was sentenced at Norwich Crown Court to 15 months in prison with the judge recommending she serve half this sentence. She has been disqualified from driving for three years and must take an extended retest.

Steve Matthews of Norfolk's Serious Collision Investigation Team said: "This was a complicated case due to the number of casualties involved, the fact that they were returning from a night out and the seriousness of the injuries suffered. We worked hard to identify the teenagers and inform their next of kin quickly but this was hampered by the misleading information given to officers and witnesses at the scene.

"These girls have all been left with lasting injuries and severe impairments in some cases, and one has sadly lost her life. A fun night out very quickly turned into a nightmare which has changed forever the lives of those involved and their families and friends, and our sympathies remain with them."

Inspector David Ball of Norfolk Constabulary's Roads Policing Unit said: "So many factors have combined to create a truly tragic incident. It was extremely difficult to get information from the survivors at the scene, some of whom had been drinking to excess during the evening. Coleman herself had taken cannabis and MDMA. Those who had been in the rear of the car and had not been wearing seatbelts, because they were inaccessible behind the seats, suffered the most serious injuries. The car had also been driven earlier in the evening with six passengers when there were only four passenger seats available.

"Eleanor Coleman has paid a very high price for driving carelessly with the death of Ellie Tweed, and in addition to losing a friend and seriously injuring others she must now spend time in prison. It is almost exactly a year ago that this collision occurred, and I would ask people to think about what happened last Halloween before they head out this year to enjoy festivities.

"It appears the group had tried to take public transport but missed the train. If you are going on a night out plan your journey: book a taxi or check timetables. A designated driver must be exactly that – do not risk drinking or taking anything which could impair your ability to drive. In a car or a taxi, always wear your seatbelt and stick to the passenger capacity. We want everyone to enjoy a safe night out in Norfolk, and that includes making your way back home safely."