Girl 'pulled steering wheel of death crash Mini'

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The Independent Online

A Mini crammed with seven people swerved into a tree killing the driver after a 15-year-old girl in the front seat pulled the steering wheel, a court heard today.

Lee Waite, 21, died moments after the girl - now charged with manslaughter - allegedly pulled the wheel sharply to the left in February last year.

She was sitting in the front seat on a male passenger's knee when she was said to have caused the crash in Bromley, Kent, jurors were told.

Four others were crammed into the back of the vehicle, one of whom, another 15-year-old girl, was left badly injured.

Two of those who were in the car told detectives that the girl in the front seat pulled on the steering wheel.

Sarah Whitehouse, prosecuting, said: "She leaned over, grabbed the steering wheel, and pulled it sharply to the left, causing the fatal consequences."

But the defendant, who is now 17 and cannot be named because of her age, said she had not done so and was shocked that it should be suggested.

Her parents sat in court at the Old Bailey as Mrs Whitehouse opened the case against their daughter.

Jurors heard members of the group of friends, including the driver, had been drinking at a pub then watching DVDs at a house and went to get cigarettes and alcohol from a garage 10 minutes away in the early hours of the morning.

The crash took place on the way back.

Mrs Whitehouse said: "Seven of them got into Lee Waite's Mini Cooper. As you might imagine, it was a bit of a squash."

The defendant was in the front on 18-year-old Richard Rutter's lap, with a 17-year-old youth and three girls aged 15 "crammed into the back", the jury was told.

Mr Waite was driving "well in excess of the speed limit" and a driver called Claire Carey said she was overtaken by him at up to 60mph, Mrs Whitehouse said.

It was Mrs Carey, an ambulance technician, who later called 999 and helped the injured passengers.

Mrs Whitehouse said: "It was a bright clear dry night with no frost and no ice and yet his car swerved off the road and hit a tree."

The force of the impact caused the engine to fall out and the vehicle spun round and went into a wall, jurors were told.

"Lee Waite was still conscious at the time of the crash but he died soon after," said Mrs Whitehouse.

The court heard that the defendant "expressed her shock" at the suggestion that she had pulled the wheel before the crash.

Mrs Whitehouse told the jury: "It is a very tragic case but a simple one. The only issue is whether or not (the defendant) pulled that wheel round to the left."