Personal Column: The fatal crash

Every parent dreads a road accident involving their child, but for Adrian Young, the news was doubly shattering. Now he and his son Richard campaign for safer driving
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The Independent Online

I collapsed when a policeman told me that my son had killed his girlfriend in a car accident. In June 2004, Richard, our only son, had been watching the England vs Portugal European Cup match, which had gone into penalties, at a friend's house. Richard was taking Kimberley, home with some friends. He had to get her back for a certain time.

Richard, who was 18 and living with us in Nuneaton, had passed his test only 13 days before. He was driving his own car, but wasn't used to it. There were five of them altogether. There was a discussion in the back about where they were going and my son looked at them over his left shoulder. As he did so, he clipped the kerb on one side and tried to correct it. His foot touched the accelerator and the car crossed the road and hit a telegraph pole which snapped. The car then spun round and hit a brick wall.

Kimberley, who was 16, was in the front seat. Richard put his hand to her pulse and thought that she was dead. Two of the people in the back were badly injured and screaming. Somebody smashed the window and let out Richard, who had only cuts and grazes, and a lad who didn't have any injuries. Kimberley and the other two stayed there until the emergency services arrived. One had broken his pelvis and the other had broken both legs above the knee. All of them had seat belts on.

Kimberley's parents came round to our house very worried that she hadn't arrived back. It was about 12.30am and they were obviously frantic. We didn't know what had happened. I tried ringing Richard on his phone, but there was no reply. We went out looking for him in the car and came across a road block. I found a policeman and said: "I'm not trying to be nosey, but I've got the parents of my son's girlfriend in the car and we are looking for her and my son." And he said: "Is your name Mr Young?" He said he had some bad news and took us to the accident scene. He told us that Kimberley had died. Strange things went through my mind - why was it not my son instead of their daughter so that they would not have to suffer.

The police took them to the hospital. Richard had been there to sort his injuries out and was then taken to the police station. I had to go back to our house with the police to make sure the documentation for the car was right, which it was. I had to tell my wife the horrible news. Richard, who had been arrested, wasn't absolutely certain that she had died. The accident happened at around 11pm and the police told him at the station at about 4am.

Proceedings against him didn't start for four months and we started picking up the pieces from the whole terrible situation. For a whole month night and day he wasn't left alone because we were frightened that he might try to commit suicide. He was so remorseful, an absolute wreck, a lost soul. They hadn't been together that long - just two weeks - but that day he'd said to me that he'd found the girl of his dreams.

He had a full time job as a chef and also went to college to get more qualifications and was doing a music course. He was quite outgoing, but after all this he became more insular. Christmas was very hard because he was thinking of Kimberley's family not having her around. He wrote them a letter apologising and saying he wished it had been him and not her.

In February 2005 he was sentenced to three years imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving. He pleaded guilty. He said, "Whatever I get, I get." When Richard was sentenced Kimberley's family was sorry. They had written to the court that no sentence would bring their lovely daughter back so they didn't feel that a sentence would serve any purpose.

During the first two weeks in prison he tried to hang himself. So many "what ifs" go through his mind - what if the football match hadn't gone on, what if he hadn't picked up some of his friends, what if he hadn't looked over his shoulder. I've told him that he can't destroy his life as well and he has to move forward in a positive manner. I love my son whatever, and I've told him that. I don't blame him. It could have been me as a youngster.

I try to educate people so that others don't have to go through what we have. Richard heard about Brake, the road safety charity, on the radio and he said we should get involved in that. I talk to schools and colleges and give them information which hopefully will alter the way they drive. Before he went to prison, Richard went to a couple.

There should be lots of education put in place to make sure people are more aware that when they go behind the wheel of a car they can kill somebody, and the effects it has. It's had a massive effect on Kimberly's family. My wife had to have a long time off work. She thinks about their family not having Kimberly around. When I see young girls, I think of her life cut short.

This weekend Richard was released on licence for 18 months. He is living with us and will continue doing community work. He wants to give something back. I'm proud of him for having taken his punishment and moved forward. He still has in his mind the enormity of what's happened and his thoughts are for Kimberley's family. I don't think he'll ever get over it. He's got a life sentence.

Brake: 01484 559909;

Adrian Young was talking to Julia Stuart