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Motorcyclist ‘somersaulted before she died when cab driver crashed into her’

The driver made a U-turn and swung into the path of an oncoming, speeding motorcycle, the Old Bailey heard.

A 72-year-old cab driver crashed into an oncoming motorbike, sending the pillion passenger “somersaulting” through the air before she died, a court heard.

Jerome Lee had picked up a family and was dropping them to their home on Farringdon Road, London, at around 8.45pm on February 21 last year.

As he made a U-turn near the junction with Clerkenwell Road, Lee swung into the path of an oncoming, speeding Ducati motorcycle, the Old Bailey was told on Monday.

While rider Shaun Hoffman was thrown to the ground, he survived. But his passenger Claire Berretti was thrown a “considerable distance” and suffered catastrophic head injuries.

She was pronounced dead at the scene, jurors heard.

(I remember) seeing the girl somersaulting through the air like a gymnast Jessenia Gonzalez, car passenger

Mother-of-two Jessenia Gonzalez was in the back of Lee’s silver taxi with her children and husband at the time of the crash.

In a statement read to the court she said that before starting the turn, Lee moved his head as if checking for traffic.

Describing the collision, she added: “There was a screeching of brakes and a loud crunch, and I knew right away that we had hit something.

“(I remember) seeing the girl somersaulting through the air like a gymnast.

“She flew so high through the air, turning and then landing.”

Prosecutor Joel Smith told jurors: “At the time that the defendant decided to turn around and perform a u-turn, a red Ducati motorcycle was travelling in the other direction nearby, up the Farringdon Road.”

He added: “The traffic lights at the junction were staggered. At the time that the defendant performed the manoeuvre the traffic lights at the junction were showing red to him – southbound traffic, but green to northbound traffic.

It appears he erroneously assumed he would be able to conduct a u-turn without running into oncoming traffic Joel Smith, prosecutor Joel Smith, prosecutor

“Given what was said by the defendant at the scene, it appears he erroneously assumed that they were showing red in both directions, and that he would be able to conduct a U-turn without running into oncoming traffic.

“He was wrong – the prosecution say he was careless.”

Jurors heard that Mr Hoffman was riding at 40mph, twice the speed limit, and that he was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to speeding.

The court was also told that the tinted visor on Mr Hoffman’s crash helmet was illegal.

Giving evidence, the motorbike rider said he had not been aware of this.

He told the court he had been speeding and that before he knew it, he and Ms Berretti had collided with the taxi.

Lee from Edgware, north west London, denies one count of causing death by careless driving.

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