United Kingdom

Passenger, 19, killed after her friend pulled over on M1 to argue about petrol money, court hears

A teenager died from a brain injury after her friend pulled over on the motorway hard shoulder during a row about petrol money minutes before a fatal crash, a court heard. 

Christalla Amphlett, 22, pleaded not guilty to a single charge of causing the death by dangerous driving of her friend, Chloe Palmer, 19, in the early hours of November 25 2017.

The driver who made the decision to pull up on the M1 en route to St Albans at around 3:30am after a Friday night out clubbing with her friends went on trial at St Albans Crown Court yesterday.   

Miss Amphlett's Renault Twingo had been parked on the hard shoulder for 17 minutes when another vehicle veered off the carriageway and slammed into the back of her stationary car, a jury heard.

Christalla Amphlett, 2, (pictured) pleaded not guilty to a single charge of causing the death by dangerous driving of her friend, Chloe Palmer, 19, in the early hours of November 25 2017

Miss Palmer, a passenger in Miss Amphlett's car, suffered a severe brain injury and died days later.

Another friend sitting on the back seat next to Miss Palmer, Maisie O'Flynn suffered serious injuries, but survived the crash. 

Opening the case yesterday, prosecutor Wayne Cleaver, told the jury that Miss Amphlett had been as responsible for the collision as the driver of the other vehicle that crashed into hers.

Mr Cleaver said: 'These are unusual circumstances since, as you will have appreciated, at the time of the collision her car was not moving.

'Nevertheless, the prosecution case is that she was driving; that driving was dangerous; and it was a contributory cause of the collision.'

He added: 'In order for the prosecution to prove the case against her we need only prove that her dangerous driving was a cause of Chloe's death. It is not necessary to prove that her dangerous driving was the only cause of the collision, nor even the principal or substantial cause.

Chloe Palmer, 19, (pictured) a passenger in Miss Amphlett's car, suffered a severe brain injury and died days later

'Miss Amphlett had created dangerous conditions by deliberately stopping the car where she did. Those conditions became increasingly dangerous the longer the car remained there.'

Continuing his outline he said it was the prosecution's case that her driving was a contributory factor in the chain of events leading to the fatal collision.

Mr Cleaver said her car had been parked on the northbound hard shoulder of the motorway, just south of Junction 6 at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire.

He said it was close to the inside lane without any illumination or hazard lights flashing.

In addition, he said Miss Amphlett had opened her door and was sitting with her legs outside the car, prompting one motorists to sound his horn and others to swerve to avoid her car.

The group of friends set off from the club in at about 3:30am and headed north up the M1 towards St Albans so that Miss O'Flynn could be dropped off first. Pictured: Miss Palmer

Seventeen minutes after stopping on the hard shoulder an Isuzu D-Max driven by Bradley Lane careered off the road and crashed into the rear of the Twingo

Mr Cleaver said it was likely Lane had fallen asleep at the wheel of his vehicle and he said had earlier pleaded guilty to 'various charges reflecting his responsibility' and was not before the court.

He then told how on Friday November 24 2017 Miss Amphlett had gone out 'clubbing' with a group of girlfriends to the 'Hide Out' club in Watford town centre.

Mr Cleaver told the court 'Christalla Amphlett of Symphony Close, Edgware was the 'designated driver' and at the end of the evening she was to drive her friends back home.

Those friends, the court was told, were Chloe Palmer, Maisie O'Flynn and Keziah Knight.

They set off from the club in at about 3:30am and headed north up the M1 towards St Albans so that Miss O'Flynn could be dropped off first.

Mr Cleaver said 'On route Christalla and Maisie started arguing about something as trifling as petrol money. Miss Amphlett had agreed to make a detour to St Albans to drop off Maisie and she was low on petrol. The passengers were drunk and were beginning to annoy the driver.

'Such was her irritation that she pulled over onto the hard shoulder of the M1 where she remained at a standstill for a few minutes.'

The journey resumed, but further along the motorway the court was told, the defendant again pulled over onto the hard shoulder and stopped the car after the argument about petrol money had started up again.

He said: 'it seems her car didn't have much petrol and she wanted petrol money; she hadn't realised she was low on petrol.'

Mr Cleaver continued: 'The arguing between these young women continued.'

He said the car remained stationary on the hard shoulder of the motorway for about 17 minutes.

During that time the court was told the front seat passenger, Kezia Knight then 19, got out of the car and sat on the metal safety barrier.

Chloe and Maisie stayed seated in the back.

'Miss Amphlett remained in the driver's seat, but opened the driver's door onto the motorway and sat sideways facing the road with her feet outside of the vehicle,' said Mr Cleaver.

He said she started the engine a few times, but switched it off again. The car lights were not illuminated and he said no hazard warning lights were displayed.

Another motorist sounded his horn to indicate the danger being caused. Motorists travelling along the carriageway swerved to avoid her car dangerously parked in the position where it was, said Mr Cleaver.

The jury then heard the Renault was still stationary on the hard shoulder when Bradley Lane's vehicle crashed into it it's rear off side, the same side where Chloe was sitting in the back seat

'For whatever reason his vehicle traversed the carriageway and collided at speed with the rear off side of Miss Amphlett s stationary car - the very part of the car where Chloe was sitting. It was that collision which caused the untimely and tragic death of Chloe and resulted in serious injuries to Maisie and Miss Amphlett'

Mr Cleaver told the jury that stopping the car in that position and in those circumstances was dangerous and her driving had fallen 'far below the standard to be expected of a competent and careful driver.'

Chloe Palmer who lived with her family in Finchley, North London was removed from the rear of the Renault and initially taken to Watford General Hospital, before being transferred to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

She had sustained pulmonary contusion, a complex pelvic fracture, fracture to the left leg, and an acute brain injury. She underwent intensive surgical intervention, but the injures to her brain were so severe that she died on December 2017.

The cause of Chole's death was certified as Hypoxic Brain Injury due to Multiple Traumatic Injuries.

Maisie O'Flynn sustained injuries, as did Miss Amphlett, but both survived.

Mr Cleaver said positioning of the defendant's car on the hard shoulder of the M1 created the conditions which allowed the fatal collision to occur.

Stopping where she had, he said was by its very nature, dangerous.

He said hard shoulders of motorways were only to be used in circumstances where it was necessary and unavoidable.

'It is to be used only in the case of genuine emergencies. This was not such a case,' he said.

He said the badly positioned car with its lights off on a partially unlit section of the motorway meant there was an increased risk of a collision.

Sitting with her legs out of the car and her door open onto the near side lane had, he said, created an obvious hazard, prompting motorists to sound their horns and take 'evasive action.'

The court was told when the defendant was interviewed under caution in August 2018 she gave a prepared statement to the effect that she was the designated driver that night.

She said remembered an argument in the car and thought it would be safer to pull over and went on: 'Looking back I don't believe that my driving was careless or dangerous or that my driving was a cause of the collision'.

He said the defendant seemed to be suggesting that there was a genuine emergency necessitating that she had no choice other to stop the car.

'In reality, there was no such emergency. The bickering in the car was of her own making. She took a bad decision to stop where she did without any regard for the potential consequences.' 

The trial continues. 

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