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Soldier's car 'a loaded weapon', says family of teenage athlete killed in crash

Car 'a loaded weapon', says family of teenage athlete killed in crash

The parents of two promising teenage athletes have given "harrowing and heart-rending" accounts of the impact of their loss as a drunken soldier was jailed for six years for killing them by crashing into them while distracted by vomit in his car.

Michael Casey, of St Paul's Road, Tottenham, was sentenced at Winchester Crown Court for causing the deaths of Stacey Burrows, 16, and Lucy Pygott, 17.

The 24-year-old, of 4 Rifles, had been out drinking with colleagues and was over the drink-drive limit when the accident happened at a pedestrian crossing near his barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire, on November 8.

The court heard that he did not see the red light at the crossing because he was distracted by vomit left in the passenger area of the car by a colleague who had been sick when he had given him a lift home.

Casey was given a six-year jail sentence which means he should be released on licence after three years.

As the sentence was announced by Judge Keith Cutler, Stacey's mother Helen Burrows cried out from the public gallery: "I do not get my daughter back in three years, do I."

Reading her victim impact statement to the court, Lucy's mother Lisa Pygott said: "Mr Casey has broken our precious family, we are lost without Lucy.

"The British Army trains soldiers to kill, Mr Casey killed with his loaded weapon of a hot hatch car."

Describing her daughter, Mrs Pygott said: "Lucy was a truly extraordinary girl, in appearance, achievement, personality and potential.

"Lucy was strikingly beautiful, nearly 6ft tall, a size 8 with naturally white blonde hair, vibrant blue eyes and a smile that just made your day feel better."

She added: "Lucy was a role model, she trained hard, ran clean, tried her hardest, listened to advice but was always gracious in defeat and modest in success.

"Being humble, she never knew how much people loved her for who she was. Seven hundred people came to her funeral."

Referring to her daughter's athletic success, which included representing Team GB, she added: "Mr Casey has robbed this country of medals, at what level we will now never know."

Describing seeing her daughter's bloodied body after the accident, Mrs Pygott said: "That image traumatises me, it will stay with me until I die. No parent should ever have to see their innocent blameless child pointlessly killed."

Speaking of her family's "constant and unremitting pain", she added: "Our lives are bleak and dark without her."

Stacey's father, Lee, described how he had dropped his daughter off for a training session with the Aldershot, Farnham and District (AFD) Athletic Club when he heard the impact of the crash that killed her.

He said: "I heard a loud bang and screams and ran down the steps frantically looking for Stacey only to be stopped by one of the parents who told me 'It's Stacey'.

"Then I saw Stacey lying in the road with people trying to help her, I felt I died with Stacey that night, I cried with fear and I froze with shock."

Describing the impact on the family, Mr Burrows added: "We just miss her so much it's painful."

Judge Cutler praised the families for providing their "heart-rending and harrowing accounts of loss and pain" but said he had to be unemotional in applying the sentencing guidelines.

He said: "No sentence I can pass can bring Lucy and Stacey back."

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, told the court Casey had spent three hours on the day of the crash in a pub in Aldershot for a colleague's leaving do.

She said in police interview he admitted drinking three or four pints of lager as well as a two-pint pitcher of a cocktail called Godfather which contained three 25ml shots of Jack Daniels and the same amount of Disaronno Amaretto.

Miss Maylin said he drove one colleague home who was sick in the passenger seat of the car and it was as he was driving back to pick up another friend that the crash happened.

She said he gave a breath test at the scene of 38mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, the legal limit is 35mcg, but a back calculation meant he would have been at 46mcg at the time of the crash.

Miss Maylin said he was driving at 40-49mph in the 30mph zone which one witness described as "motorway speed".

She added the impact had carried Lucy 30 metres and Stacey 45 metres before they were thrown on to the ground.

After the incident, Casey told a witness: "What have I done? I was driving down the road and my mate had been sick in my car so I was looking down on the passenger side, the next thing I knew the lights were red and I hit the girls. What have I done?"

Miss Maylin said the crossing lights would have been on amber for six seconds which meant he had been distracted for at least this period of time.

James Newton-Price, defending, said Casey's career in the army, which included a six-month tour of Afghanistan, was now over because of the case.

He added: "He wishes it to be known that he accepts full and total responsibility for what he has done and the loss and damage he has caused."

Reading his client's words, he added: "I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering you are going through.

"I will never forgive myself for my actions which resulted in myself taking the lives of your daughters. I am truly sorry."

Speaking outside court, Sergeant Mark Furse, of Hampshire Police, said: "This is a truly tragic case which has had a huge impact on everyone who knew Stacey and Lucy.

"Both had such promising futures ahead of them but those were so cruelly ripped away from them because of Mr Casey's stupidity and recklessness behind the wheel.

"Now the devastated families of Stacey and Lucy are forced to live on without them, knowing that their heartbreak could have so easily been avoided if Mr Casey had made the right decision and not driven that evening.

"As the court heard, not only was Mr Casey over the drink-drive limit, witnesses from the scene told our officers that he was travelling significantly above the 30mph speed limit and he himself admitted he was distracted.

"Let this be a warning to anyone who thinks that these are risks worth taking and that this will never happen to them.

"Driving while under the influence of alcohol leads to poor judgment, increased risk-taking and ultimately in this case, the death of two young girls.

"It is not worth the risk, it could happen to you and not only will you spend time in prison, you will have to live with the fact that you have taken someone's life and destroyed countless others."

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