London - A model was texting at the wheel seconds before she hit an oncoming car, killing its driver.
Katie Foster’s victim, Lee Cain, 36, had been due to donate his kidney to his seriously ill brother Bradley. Because of the tragedy, their elderly father had to step in and provide the organ.
Foster, who was 18 at the time, received a message on her iPhone only nine seconds before ran into Mr Cain’s car.
It was struck so hard that it rolled over several times and he died at the scene. Foster had also messaged her father 25 seconds before the crash on the busy A688 near West Auckland, Co Durham.
She was on Thursday sentenced to seven months in a young offenders’ institute and disqualified from driving for 15 months for causing death by careless driving.
Judge Christopher Prince, sentencing, told Foster she had been ‘distracted’ by her mobile phone, and this ‘led to you driving without proper care’.
He described it as a tragic case after hearing that Mr Cain, 36, had been about to donate his kidney to his seriously-ill brother Bradley. In a victim impact statement read to Durham Crown Court, Mr Cain’s mother Gail said: ‘The heartache of organising a funeral for your child is an utterly horrendous experience that no one should ever have to go through.’
She said Mr Cain’s father, Brian, at the age of 70, had to step in to supply the organ for the transplant operation. ‘Lee was young and fit and happy to help his brother but, because of this collision, my husband has had to go through this surgery instead,’ she said.
Foster, now 20, had passed her driving test nine months earlier. She was driving on March 21, 2016, when cars in front of her braked. She did not react in time and swerved her VW Polo across the road, hitting tyre fitter Mr Cain’s Peugeot 206.
Ian Mullarkey, prosecuting, said: ‘Mr Cain’s vehicle rotated 90 degrees and rolled several times. Mr Cain was severely injured and sadly died at the scene.’
Foster, who had three passengers in the car with her, had a black box fitted, meaning that the exact time of the collision was recorded.
That allowed police to see that she had texted her father 25 seconds before the crash and received a message nine seconds before.
She claimed she never read his text, and that the accident happened because she was too close to the vehicle in front and braked too late.
But Judge Christopher Prince told Foster that she allowed herself to be ‘distracted’ by her mobile phone, which was under her thigh at the time of the accident.
He said: ‘I recognise there was no suggestion that you were holding that telephone or using that telephone at the time but it’s evident from your behaviour that you were making a choice not to concentrate as you should have been doing.’
Foster, from Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, has a profile on modelling and acting website Casting Now. James Lake, mitigating, read a letter from her to the court in which she said: ‘My life changed forever that night when I found out a young man had passed away.’