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North Devon double-death-crash driver jailed for six years

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 12, 2013

Jason Huxtable

A disqualified driver who tried to blame a fatal road accident on one of his friends as she lay dying next to the burning vehicle has been jailed for six years.

Jason Huxtable, 22, was speeding and at twice the legal drink-drive limit when he killed young mother Emma Kift, 21, and Johnny Popple, 23, after he lost control of the car he was driving at Loxhore Cross, near Barnstaple in Devon.

Ms Kift, a front-seat passenger, was thrown from the car as it flipped over a hedge and rolled down a bank in the early hours of June 1 last year.

The car later burst into flames, leaving Mr Popple trapped inside where he later died.

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Huxtable, a construction worker, was said to have flagged down a passing lorry driver and attempted to hitch a ride to his home in nearby Bratton Fleming.

It was only when the lorry driver refused to allow the lift that Huxtable informed him there had been a crash.

The defendant, who had been banned from driving three months earlier, initially said Ms Kift had been driving and showed little concern for his friends, Exeter Crown Court heard.

He eventually made a full confession to police, pleading guilty to two counts of causing death by careless driving when over the prescribed limit.

Sentencing today, judge Mr Justice Burnett said: “At the time of these awful events you simply did not believe the ordinary rules which apply to everyone else applied to you.

“Time and again young lives are lost as a result of the overbearing arrogance and stupidity of young drivers who believe that they are in some way immune to the effects of alcohol and run risks with their own lives and other people’s lives. The consequences of your actions are almost beyond description.”

Prosecutor Andrew Macfarlane said the trio had been drinking with another friend nearby that evening - in memory of a friend who had died a year earlier - when they later decided to go into Barnstaple to get some food.

It was agreed Huxtable should drive, as he was considered “the most sober”, taking Ms Kift’s vehicle. The young mother was the front seat passenger and Mr Popple was a passenger in the back.

But the court heard the car clipped a hedge, before “fish-tailing” down the road and flipping down a bank as Huxtable sought to correct his driving. He had been driving in excess of the 60mph speed limit.

Mr Macfarlane said: “The vehicle then ignited. The fire was so fierce that it burned virtually everything about it, including the tyres.

“Not a lot was left of the body of Mr Popple who perished in the car.”

He said Ms Kift had always refused to wear a seatbelt because, the court was told, “if her child died in a car accident, she didn’t want to live either”. It meant the young mother was thrown from the car at some point before it burst into flames. She died from multiple injuries.

Mr Macfarlane said Huxtable had somehow managed to escape, flagging down a lorry driver and asking to hitch a ride towards his home.

He said: “There’s no evidence at all that he tried to give any help to Ms Kift. (The car) is burning furiously, his first thought should have been to the fire brigade – never mentioned.”

Defending, Lee Bremridge said no custodial sentence would compare with his client having to live with causing the death of his friends.

He said: “This is a tragic case. What Mr Huxtable did has led to the deaths of two friends of his on what were dreadful circumstances.

“He accepts full responsibility for what happened. Now aged 22, the events of the early hours of June 1 will live with him for the rest of his life.”

Mr Bremridge said his client wasn’t trying to “flee the scene” following the crash, but admitted that “in hindsight” he should have told the lorry driver of the seriousness of the incident.

The judge said: “This is an early attempt to try and shift responsibility for reasons which are frankly obvious. He’s a disqualified driver.

“To my mind the more serious aspect of it is trying to shift responsibility to Emma.”

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