Driver's moment of panic led to 'appalling accident'
PUBLISHED: 15:00 07 November 2013
A GERMAN tourist, who left two young students with life changing injuries after his camper van careered into a group of friends, has received a suspended jail sentence.
Arnold Kasserra mistook the clutch for the brake pedal as he lost control of the vehicle before it freewheeled down a 275-metre steep slope, hit a wall, took off, and hit five youngsters.
Among them were Victoria Vipond and Natalie Palmer, both 16 and from Bristol, who were on a short holiday in Beer on July 9 to celebrate them both getting six A*s in their GCSEs. Both have been left unable to return to school to start their A-levels.
Natalie suffered a broken neck and cannot get out of bed without wearing a brace to hold the weight of her head.
Victoria, who had part of her foot amputated, is still on crutches four months later.
Before the accident they were both keen sportswomen and completing Duke of Edinburgh Gold awards.
Retired engineer Kesserra, 67, from Jork, admitted two offences of dangerous driving and was jailed for 18 months, suspended for two years and fined £1,000 with £440 costs.
He was also banned from driving for five years but the disqualification will only apply to Britain.
Recorder William Andreae-Jones, QC, told him: “These two girls suffered an appalling accident through absolutely no fault of their own. There can be no doubt this accident was your fault.
“I am satisfied your remorse is genuine and both you and your wife were also injured. This accident came about from a combination of misjudgement and panic. It is not a case of deliberate bad driving or even recklessness.”
Eleanor Perkis, prosecuting, described how Kasserra and his wife Evelyn set off from a car park next to the Beer Head campsite where they spent the night.
He intended to turn left off the steep road leading to the seafront but instead went straight through a ‘No Entry’ sign and gained speed.
Kasserra told police his brakes had failed but checks showed they worked perfectly and he was pressing the clutch in panic.
The Fiat van narrowly missed two pedestrians as it freewheeled down the hill. It demolished a low wall and became airborne before hitting the girls and ended in a culvert near the seafront which stopped it just feet before a busy tea rooms. The whole incident took just 20 seconds.
Defending Kasserra, Adrian Chaplin said: “He wishes me to underline his sense of horror at the long-term effects which this accident has had and to express his profound remorse and regret.
“In the agony of the moment he pressed what he thought was the brake but the vehicle did not stop. His wife was screaming for him to use the hand brake but he thought that would be even more dangerous.”