Uninsured learner driver who killed elderly couple in head-on horror smash jailed
An uninsured learner driver who killed an elderly couple in a head-on smash after consuming whisky and cannabis has been jailed for just over five years – branding himself a “cold-blooded killer”.
Alan and Shirley Reygate, both in their 80s, died as a result of the collision which occurred as they were heading home from celebrating their granddaughter’s 11th birthday.
A Toyota Avensis driven by 29-year-old Kristiyan Trendafilov careered into the path of their Fiat 500 as he rounded a bend on the wrong side of the road.
The Bulgarian was over the drug-drive limit for the class B drug but just below the limit for alcohol.
A court heard he had also taken his mother’s car without permission and was driving both without insurance and alone while only holding a provisional licence.
He told police at the scene that he was driving at 40mph when a bat had caused him to lose control, and later also claimed to have been “dazzled” by headlights.
But a court heard there was nothing to indicate he would have lost control at that speed and significant oversteering would have needed to occur at 60mph.
Mrs and Mrs Reygate were on their way home to Ninfield, near Bexhill, East Sussex, when the smash occurred in Colts Hill on the outskirts of Tonbridge, Kent.
It was just after 11pm on Sunday, October 7, 2018.
The couple had to be freed from their vehicle by firefighters and taken by air ambulance to London’s Kings College Hospital.
Amateur artist Mrs Reygate, who was 83, underwent major surgery for internal abdominal injuries but sadly died four days later having never regained consciousness.
Her 82-year-old husband of 59 years suffered broken ribs, back, neck and hip and was in an induced coma for two weeks.
But despite efforts to recover from his serious injuries, the retired building contractor died three months later in January 2019.
The “treasured” couple’s daughter, Lisa Cole, told Maidstone Crown Court, Kent, she had to break the tragic news to her father while he was still in critical care that his wife had died.
Mrs Cole said her dad’s grief was “overwhelming” and he begged to die, wrongly blaming himself for the crash.
Trendafilov, of St. James Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, initially denied two charges of causing death by dangerous driving but changed his pleas to guilty on what would have been the first day of his trial.
Judge Julian Smith said that although he accepted his “honest expression of regret, guilt and responsibility”, he was “profoundly culpable for such terrible consequences”.
Trendafilov, who has no previous convictions, was also banned from driving for five years and seven months and ordered to take an extended test.
He wrote a letter to the court in which he branded himself “a cold-blooded killer” and asked for the family’s forgiveness.
Prosecutor Paul Valder told the court there was “no obvious reason” for the civil engineer losing control of his car on the A228 Maidstone Road.
Trendafilov suffered minor knee and chest injuries and his Toyota ended up in a roadside ditch and on fire.
He was seen stumbling and crawling away. He also smelt of alcohol, said the prosecutor.
The court heard Trendafilov told police at the scene he was driving at 40mph and had had “one whisky”.
Mr Valder said the combination of alcohol and drugs “may well have impaired” his ability to drive safely.
Mum-of-three Mrs Cole spoke of the devastating impact of losing “supportive, kind and generous” parents and “very proud” grandparents who were both in good health.
She added her traumatised daughter had expressed a wish she had not been born so they had not been visiting that day.
Jeremy Rosenberg, defending, said Trendafilov was “hard-working, diligent and responsible”. He lived with and financially supported his mother.