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Cheshire tractor driver killed cyclist while looking at Snapchat

A tractor driver who was looking at Snapchat before he crashed into a cyclist and killed her has been jailed.

Helen Wickham, 53, and her son, 19, were struck by the tractor towing a field roller as they were cycling along Holmes Chapel Road in Brereton Heath, Cheshire on 27 April 2020.

Jonathan Sumner, 33, of Arclid, Sandbach, previously pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

He was sentenced to eight years and six months at Chester Crown Court.

He also admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The 19-year-old suffered severe leg injuries in the crash which happened at about 19:25 BST, Cheshire Police said.

His mother died at the scene.

'Completely avoidable'

Detectives said Sumner claimed he was blinded by the sun, but from witness accounts and revisiting the scene, officers concluded that although the sun was low, Sumner would have had sufficient visibility, with sections of the road in shade.

He would have had time to see the cyclists ahead, as they would have been in view from a distance of around 210m (690 ft).

Sumner was shown to be travelling over the permitted speed limit of 20mph for the tractor and trailer combination.

Mobile phone data showed he was using his phone while driving, including viewing images and videos on Snapchat.

This activity was shown to be around one minute before the fatal crash.

Jonathan Sumner
Jonathan Sumner claimed he did not see the cyclists at first

Following sentencing, Ms Wickham's family said Sumner had taken away "a wonderful, caring, devoted and selfless person" and her son had sustained serious life-changing physical and mental injuries.

"Helen was so full of life, she had an amazing smile, bright, sparkling, loving eyes, and her presence would light up any room," they said.

"Helen was always attending and running social events, she was always there for other people. She approached everything in life with passion and determination."

Her family said "she gave time to love" was written on her headstone, adding that when she died "everyone who knew her lost someone so very special".

Sgt Simon Degg added: "Sumner was essentially driving a lethal weapon.

"He was in control of a combined 11-tonnes, yet he thought it was appropriate to be on his mobile phone.

"This collision was completely avoidable."

Sumner will be banned from driving for five years when he is released.

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