A ‘selfish’ teenage driver who killed his friend in a high-speed crash has been jailed and told he will live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.
Brennan Carpenter, 19, lost control of his car on a bend on a 60mph road in rural Leicestershire on Sunday, December 20 last year.
Travelling somewhere between 82mph and 88mph, the Ford Fiesta left the road, overturned and came to rest in a water-filled ditch.
His front-seat passenger and friend from school, 18-year-old Tom Gamble, suffered devastating injuries and died in hospital the next morning.
Only months earlier, Tom had landed his dream job with the RAF and was thriving professionally and personally, Leicester Crown Court heard.
Carpenter, of Evans Avenue, Broughton Astley, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving at a hearing at Leicester Magistrates’ Court last month and appeared at the crown court to be sentenced.
Members of Tom’s family were able to read out – or have read out on their behalf – their own personal statements before the judge moved to sentence Carpenter.
Describing Carpenter as “selfish” and his driving as “careless, reckless and dangerous”, Tom’s mother Rebecca accused him of showing no remorse for what he had done.
She said: “The only reason I’m able to not end my own life is because I do not want my eight-year-old daughter to see me in a coffin – as I had to see Tom.
“Tom was turning from a boy into a lovely mature young man. He was making a difference with his life. He was serving his country.
“We will never know the impact he would have had on society and as a father or a husband.
“Most days I don’t know how I get up, wash, cook or go to work – all I want to do is sit down and cry. I am a completely different person since losing Tom.”
In the day’s following his death, Tom’s family was made aware of videos Carpenter had posted on social media weeks or months before the tragedy.
The short clips, which were passed to the police, showed him fooling about while at the wheel – in one, he was driving with his right leg sticking out of his window while in another he appeared to be smoking a joint.
Although no legal action was taken as a result, both the judge and the prosecution described the manner of driving as ‘reprehensible’.
Prosecutor Sarah Knight told the court the crash happened in Willoughby Road, just outside the village of Willoughby Waterleys, in Harborough district.
The car left the road and came to rest in a ditch, initially trapping all four occupants – who had studied together at Thomas Estley Community College, in Tom’s home village of Broughton Astley.
Emergency services, including the air ambulance, were called to the scene, close to the junction with Cosby Lane, shortly after 3.15pm.
Three of the boys had managed to climb out and were making frantic efforts to free Tom when the emergency teams arrived at the scene.
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The three, whose efforts to free and resuscitate their friend were described by one witness as ‘heroic’, were taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary, where they were treated for minor injuries.
Tom was taken by road to the major trauma unit at the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire, at Walsgrave, Coventry, where he died at 1am the next day.
Ms Knight said Carpenter has a conviction for cannabis possession dating back to 2019 when he was a youth.
A small amount of cannabis was found in his car but the prosecution said he was not under the influence of the drug at the time of the crash.
The condition of the road, which has a speed limit of 60mph, was good and the weather fine, she said.
Specialist collision investigators from Leicestershire Police found evidence to suggest the car’s speed as it approached the bend was between 82mph and 88mph, Ms Knight said.
Carpenter’s legal representative Helen Johnson told the court: “The defendant was a close friend of Thomas. The two were at secondary school together, that is true of the two passengers.
“Although Thomas had joined the RAF and was living away from home, they continued to meet up and remained close.
“He will have to come to terms with the loss of his friend and live with the fact that he was responsible for his death.
“He is still a very young man. He was only 18 at the time. His lack of driving experience is likely to have contributed.
“As parents, we know our sons are very anxious to get that driving licence and get out on the road.
“We also know the combination of immaturity and risk-taking and that fact that young men often have a lack of understanding of their own mortality.
“Many young men will behave irresponsibly in the future, but not many will face the consequences this man has.”
Judge Ebrahim Mooncey told Carpenter: “In this case another young life has been lost.
“The two friends in the rear have made statements to say your driving was too fast, although they can’t for obvious reasons, assist with how fast.
“But you knew you were going too fast and one of those friends told you to slow down. There was a lot of road signage which you did not heed.”
“The police officer says the maximum speed to safely negotiate that bend is 43mph. The assessment is your potential average speed was 82 to 88mph – near enough double what you should have been doing.
“It is accepted you were distraught and that you and your friends did all you could to try to save your friend’s life – but sadly that could not be done.
“I have heard moving statements from the people who have been affected by the loss of Tom from their lives.
“I have also read statements about your behaviour. They speak of the effect this had had on you and the remorse you feel.
“I also have information about your previous conduct while driving, which was reprehensible.
“Deterrent sentences are sometimes necessary. Cars are manufactured to go at speeds we can never drive at on public roads.
“It is the driver that takes on the responsibility. Once you have passed your driving test and been given a licence you have undertaken a duty to follow the rules and regulations.”
Carpenter was jailed for 10 months and disqualified from driving for three years. He will also have to resit his driving test, the judge ruled.
Speaking after the hearing, Detective Sergeant Ed Des-Chanelle, from the serious collision investigation unit, said: “Yet again, we see a young life lost due to the careless actions of another.
“We are pleased Carpenter pleaded guilty to the charges laid before him and spared the family the ordeal of hearing the evidence in court.
“While it will never ease the pain, the fact Carpenter has taken responsibility for his actions will hopefully bring them some peace.
“The incident and investigation also had a massive impact on the officers who dealt with it, many of whom had children of similar ages themselves.
“Putting their feelings aside they dealt with the families with the utmost sensitivity, guiding them through the investigation and subsequent judicial process.
“We hope that the sentence passed today gives Carpenter the time to reflect on his careless behaviour and think about his actions in the future.
“Speeding is one of the four main contributors to road death and serious injury on our roads and we are constantly trying to deter and educate drivers from such carless driving, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.
“There is no excuse for speeding and we will arrest and prosecute those who believe they are above the law.”
Tom, who achieved the rank of Senior Aircraftman (SAC), was stationed at RAF Benson, in Oxfordshire, and had quickly qualified as a military driver.
His commanding officers at RAF Benson spoke highly of the young prospect, describing him as a ‘highly competent driver’ of a range of vehicles and ‘a popular young man with a bright future ahead of him’ who would be ‘greatly missed by all who knew him’.
Group Captain Nick Paton, the RAF Benson station commander, said in a statement released in the days following the tragedy: “He showed great promise and it is tragic that he never got the chance to reach his full potential.”
A bar at the base has been named in Tom’s honour, the court heard today.
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