Girl, 15, killed in crash after ‘driver ignored fuel light’ and car broke down

Georgia Mann, 15, was killed in a crash in Kent

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A 15-year-old girl was killed in a crash when a driver broke down on a slip road after allegedly ignoring his petrol warning light for up to half an hour.

Georgia Mann was a sitting in a back passenger seat in a stationary Audi A1 when a VW Caddy van hit it. The crash happened near Sittingbourne in Kent, at 11.50pm on October 24, 2018.

Audi driver Andre Trenton had driven for 20 to 30 minutes with the fuel gauge illuminated before his car came to a halt as he joined the A249 at Bobbing, a jury was told.

The 22-year-old, a former footballer with Dartford FC and Ebbsfleet United, had also driven past a service station shortly before breaking down, the court heard.

It is alleged he then not only left his vehicle in an unsafe, central position on the slip road but also failed to take advantage of the downhill gradient and roll it away from danger.

Maidstone Crown Court heard it was as he was about to refuel the vehicle some 20 minutes later that it was hit to the rear offside by the van.

Teenager Georgia, who had remained in the car, suffered brain stem trauma and spinal injury. She died two days later at King's College Hospital in London.

The driver broke down on a slip road after allegedly ignoring his petrol warning light for up to half an hour

The jury was told van driver Benjamin Henley, from Chatham, Kent, has since admitted causing her death by dangerous driving.

Trenton however, who was also injured in the smash, denies causing death by careless driving.

He told police when interviewed that he had left his car in 'a fine position' on the slip road, as far left as possible with its nearside tyres touching the white line and leaving enough space for other motorists to pass him.

At the start of his trial yesterday, prosecutor Peter Forbes said both Henley, who is in his 40s, and Trenton were responsible for the tragedy.

"Andre Trenton had presented a hazard in the road, he had allowed his vehicle to run out of fuel, failing to react to his fuel gauge indicator and missing the opportunity of stopping at a petrol station nearby," he told the court.

"He failed to leave his vehicle in a safe place. It could have been rolled forward by just taking off the handbrake, rather than being left on the slip road.

"It could have been steered off without any need to be pushed. It could have been manoeuvred wholly off the slip road rather than being wholly on the slip road.

"He didn't instruct his passengers to leave the vehicle but let them remain inside while he went off to get fuel."

Of the offence faced by Trenton, Mr Forbes added: "The driver doesn't have to be at the wheel at the moment a collision occurs. It is causing death by careless driving, not causing death while carelessly driving."

Georgia lived in nearby Milton Regis and was described as a 'popular and enthusiastic' Year 11 pupil at Westlands School in Sittingbourne.

Her family said at the time of her death that her organs were to be donated.

Trenton's front seat passenger and girlfriend Sinead Hayes, then 20, was also injured, having stayed in the Audi with Georgia.

She suffered a bleed to her brain but was said to have made a full recovery.

The impact between the van and Audi threw Trenton across the dual carriageway, leaving him with broken ribs and multiple cuts.

He told police he had been 'driving around' with Ms Hayes when he picked up her younger sister and her best friend, Georgia.

The teenagers got into the rear seat and they planned to all return to Ms Hayes's address.

She suffered brain stem trauma and spinal injury before dying in hospital 2 days later

The court heard Trenton accepted he had continued to drive for up to 30 minutes after the warning light first illuminated that night, and that the gauge had been on zero when he collected the two girls 'a couple of minutes' before breaking down.

According to the vehicle's handbook, he would have had seven litres of fuel remaining when the fuel indicator first came on.

Asked about having driven past a service station just 500 metres away, he told police he had not stopped because there was another 'five minutes' up the road and closer to where Ms Hayes lived.

Having come to a halt, he put on his hazard lights and set off on foot with his girlfriend's sister to buy petrol, the jury was told.

Although the road was described as pitch black, the lights could be seen for some 225 metres, the court heard.

The first service station had no petrol cans so he phoned a friend who was in the area for a lift to another garage.

She then dropped Trenton, from Gillingham, Kent, and Ms Hayes's sister back at the Audi.

The court heard that before Trenton's call to his friend, she had seen his car on the slip road and had had to 'swerve' around it.

It is alleged that Trenton could have manoeuvred his car entirely off the slip road by making use of a drainage channel to its left.

He told police however that he did not believe he was posing a danger.

"I felt I was in a fine position, and if I was in a dangerous position, there would have been people beeping and all sorts," he said.

"All those going past would have been (saying) 'Why has he parked like an idiot?' I was that far over, I was fine."

John Lucas, defending, told the jury Trenton 'did what he could' by pulling his car over as far as possible when it came to a standstill, and then refuelling as quickly as possible to 'minimise any risk'.

He added that Trenton, who had not been drinking, was 'side-tracked' by conversation in the car and 'overlooked' the fact he needed fuel.

The trial continues.

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