A man from Weston Turville who was high on nitrous oxide when he crashed his van into a car and killed two of its passengers has been sentenced to nine years and 10 months in prison.
William Thompson, 18, of Marroway was sentenced on Friday May 18 after pleading guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving on the A41 northbound, just after the Berkhamsted junction.
The court heard that just before 11.30pm on May 7 2017, a number of witnesses saw a Peugeot Expert Pro van being driven in a ‘stupidly fast and aggressive’ manner.
Minutes later the van, with Thompson at the wheel, began to perform an overtaking manoeuvre from the left lane to the right but in doing so struck the rear of a Nissan Micra, killing its two passengers - Jean Malone, 76, and her 66-year-old friend Mary Davis.
The collision caused the Nissan to flip several times before it came to rest on the carriageway.
The driver, a man, suffered minor injuries that required hospital treatment.
Thompson, who was 17 at the time of the collision and had been driving for less than six months, suffered a cut to his arm.
He was escorted to hospital by officers for treatment before being arrested on suspicion of causing two deaths by dangerous driving.
During the subsequent investigation, police found a number of canisters containing nitrous oxide – or laughing gas – were found both in Thompson’s van and on the carriageway, along with a number of balloons.
When inhaled, nitrous oxide can cause feelings of euphoria, dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight, fits of laughter, sound distortions or even hallucinations.
Several witness accounts stated that Thompson drove past them with the van’s interior light on, meaning they were able to see him holding a balloon to his mouth and inhaling the gas as he passed them.
It is estimated that while it was limited by law to travel at 60mph on dual carriageways, Thompson’s van was travelling between 78mph and 91mph at the time of the collision.
Following a detailed investigation, officers concluded that there were no other contributory factors to the collision other than Thompson’s manner of driving and the fact he was inhaling nitrous oxide at the wheel.
The weather was fine and dry with good visibility and both the Micra and the van were subsequently examined for possible mechanical defects, of which there were none.
PC Andy Ralph, who investigated the incident alongside colleague and Investigator David McGorrell said: “This was a highly distressing incident for all involved and one that would have been completely avoidable had Thompson made a different decision that night.
“There is never an excuse for driving under the influence of any substance that could impede your ability behind the wheel.
“To lose a loved one in any circumstance is unthinkable, but in this situation it is especially heart-breaking.
“Thompson’s stupidity has taken the lives of two wonderful ladies who were on their way home from running their regular bingo night in Hendon when the collision occurred.
“Now those who have been left behind will have to deal with a lifetime of emotional suffering.
“I know nothing will bring Jean and Mary back, but I hope seeing Thompson put behind bars will help their families gain some sort of closure on what has been an extremely traumatic time for them.”
Thompson has also been banned from driving for six and a half years.