A CAR passenger was killed as he changed a wheel at the roadside – five years to the day after he was pronounced dead and came back to life.

Incredibly, the date of the two 'deaths' – December 27 – is the birthday of the tragic victim Alexandru Braninschi's father, a court was told.

Twenty-four-year-old Mr Braninschi was declared dead in his Romanian homeland in 2006 after falling into a coma following a "near-fatal" road accident.

In December 2011, on a visit to the North-East to see family for Christmas, he was hit by a van as he carried out emergency repairs to the vehicle.

The Skoda Octavia was partly on the hard shoulder and partly on the inside lane of the A19 near Northallerton, North Yorkshire, with a puncture.

Mr Braninschi and relatives from Stockton were returning from a shopping trip to York when the accident happened, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The other driver, Susan Noble, from Seaham, County Durham, was today (January 7) jailed for three years after she admitted causing death by dangerous driving.

Noble, 29, a delivery driver for Network Rail, had been texting on her mobile phone and did not see the stricken car until it was too late to avoid a crash.

Other motorists were able to pull out as they approached the Skoda, said prosecutor Paul Newcombe, who added: "The defendant had her head in her phone."

He told the court: "The evidence shows in the 30 minutes before the collision, the defendant was using her Blackberry to send and read texts.

"She sent two and read three, and was reading the final text rather than looking at the road before the collision. They were not urgent matters, and amounted to little more than idle banter.

"She had been reading and composing text messages over a lengthy period of time prior to impact while driving at motorway speeds on a winter's night."

Rod Hunt, mitigating, said Noble - who wept throughout the case - had been traumatised by the crash, and added: "She feels a tremendous amount of guilt.

"She is a young, modern girl with all the distractions of a modern life, and she has made a terrible error on this occasion by not putting the driving first."

The court heard how Noble moved to Armthorpe, South Yorkshire, because of work, and got "tired" commuting between there and her family in County Durham.

Judge Peter Bowers, who also banned her from driving for six years, told Noble she had caused "a substantial risk of danger" by using her handset.

"The most serious lesson to learn is that the use of mobile phones and texting causes a very serious distraction from the business of driving and one which cannot be tolerated," he said.

The court heard how Mr Braninschi's girlfriend, Eugenia Raileanu, screamed in horror after he was hit at 70mph by the Ford Fiesta van on the northbound carriageway.

Miss Raileanu met the victim when she was the physiotherapist who nursed him back to health after the accident five years ago, said Mr Newcombe.