A DRUNK-DRIVER who ran away from the crash that killed his friend just four days before Christmas has been jailed for six years and four months.
Darrel French had to be chased 200 yards by another motorist after fleeing from the scene of the incident, on the A167 inner ring road, in Darlington.
He initially tried to deny he was the driver of the vehicle, claiming to have been a pedestrian who witnessed the crash, but eventually changed his story.
Teesside Crown Court heard French was driving a stolen Isuzu Trooper, which witnesses saw being driven at excessive speed, through crowds of Christmas shoppers in Darlington town centre, in the minutes before the crash.
Front-seat passenger James Reddington was declared dead at the scene, after French smashed the Isuzu into the side of a bus at the busy Stonebridge roundabout.
Mr Reddington, who was 19, had only recently discovered that he was to become a father for the second time.
KILLED: James Reddington
His partner, who is due to give birth to their daughter in May, was among the family members present at the hearing.
Prosecutor Peter Makepeace told the court the car had been taken following a sneak-in burglary at a property in Rydal Road, on the afternoon of the crash.
French, of Haughton Road, Darlington, admitted causing death by dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking, drink-driving and driving without insurance.
The 25-year-old, who was almost three times the drink-drive limit, denied involvement in the burglary and that charge will lie on file.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC told French he was prepared to accept that he did not realise the gravity of the situation when he fled the scene, but added: “Your first thought was for yourself and you gave no immediate thought for the safety or condition of others in the vehicle.”
JAILED: Daniel Bolton
French also admitted drink-driving and driving without insurance and was banned from driving for four years.
A second defendant, Daniel Dewhirst Bolton, who was a back-seat passenger in the car, suffered serious injuries in the crash and came to court on crutches.
He admitted burglary and aggravated vehicle taking and, having committed these offences while out of prison on licence for an earlier house break-in, was jailed for three years and eight months.
The 23-year-old, whose address was given as Middleton Court YMCA hostel, in Darlington, was also banned from driving for a year.