A MOTORIST’S decision to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre led to “devastating consequences” for an oncoming driver and his own son.

Craig Allen was at the wheel of a Kia Venga which collided head-on with a Vauxhall Astra, on the A68 between Witton-le-Wear and Toft Hill, at 7.30am on September 13, 2018.

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The Astra driver, Nick Copson, from Woodland, in Teesdale, suffered what Durham Crown Court heard were “catastrophic” injuries on impact, which was described by witnesses as like, “an explosion”.

He was cut free from the wreckage of his vehicle and airlifted from the scene in a critical condition with life-changing injuries, including a broken back, crushed torso and punctured lungs.

The 46-year-old chef remained in a coma for five weeks and underwent surgery, including a double leg amputation, amid lengthy treatment at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital, but has been left paralysed with numerous other medical complications.

He was travelling to work as chef manager at Harperley Hall College of Policing, near Crook, when the fateful collision took place.

The other driver, the defendant, was driving from his home in Weardale to work at an engineering company in Newton Aycliffe.

He had his own son, Oscar, in the car at the time, who he was going to drop off at college en-route to work.

Both cars were being driven at about the speed limit, 60-miles per hour, in opposite directions, but Allen took the decision to pull out to attempt to overtake two vehicles in front, including a lorry, in a hatched area prohibiting such a manoeuvre.

Paul Rooney, prosecuting, said in doing so Allen was unaware of the oncoming Astra and, despite pulling over further to the opposite carriageway, could not avoid the collision.

He also had to be cut free from his car and required hospital treatment as did his passenger son, who was seriously injured.

Allen, 46, of Front Street, Stanhope, always admitted responsibility for the accident, but denied two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driver.

He did, however, admit causing serious injury by careless driving.

But, on the second day of his trial, under cross-examination by Mr Rooney, he conceded the manner of his overtaking manoeuvre was, “dangerous”.

He subsequently changed his plea and admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

His sentencing hearing heard an emotional impact statement given by Mr Copson’s wife, Nikki, who admitted in the aftermath of the accident she thought she was going to lose her husband, and “soul mate”, almost on a daily basis, for the following 11 weeks, as he endured the huge knock-on effects of the impact, including full-blown sepsis, multi-organ failure, infections and dialysis, followed by the need for both leg amputations.

She said she travelled to the hospital every day for 13 months, recalling the feeling of walking to ICU, "worrying if he was still going to be alive."

Mr Copson is now said to be, “making small steps to recovery”, at their new adapted home, a bungalow, assisted by carers 24-hours a day.

Michael Hayton QC, in mitigation, said the defendant was, “effectively of good character”, with a single minor conviction as a teenager, and a good driving record.

Mr Hayton said Allen’s son, Oscar, had now made an effective full recovery from treatment for his injuries, including a fused-vertebrae, having spent 13 months in hospital after the accident.

He described the driving prior to the collision as, “of course dangerous, taking place over a period of seconds.”

But he added: “It was not a case of rapid overtaking, or a case involving drink or drugs.”

Imposing a 38-month prison sentence Judge James Adkin told Allen: “Mr Copson was left with utterly catastrophic injuries which have clearly changed his life.

“Your line of sight must have been compromised by the two vehicles in front.

“But you took it into your head to attempt to overtake in that hatched area, with devastating effect.”

Allen was banned from driving for 67 months and must sit an extended re-test to legally be allowed to take to the wheel again.

The judge also praised witness Gemma Wood, driving just behind the defendant at the time of the accident, for her commendable actions offering assistance to all three casualties prior to the arrival of the emergency services.

Formally commending her, he said she should be awarded £500 from public funds.