Motorist ‘on phone’ at time of fatal crash

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A racing driver knocked down and killed a cyclist as he towed his racing car to have specialist testing, a court has heard.

Frank Wrathall, 26, denies causing the death of cyclist Paul Fingleton by dangerous driving at Preston Crown Court.

Opening the trial yesterday, Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said Wrathall, of Strickens Lane, Barnacre, near Garstang, was talking to his girlfriend on his mobile phone at the time of the fatal collision at Broughton roundabout on May 14 last year.

The Citroen van he was driving did not have any Bluetooth and there was no facility for hands-free calling.

At the time of the collision, Mr Fingleton, 47, from Fulwood, Preston, was cycling home from Goosnargh Tennis Club, where he had been with his wife Anne and daughter Hannah.

But as he cycled past the entrance to the motorway sliproad, heading northbound, he collided with the van, suffering injuries to his head and spine.

He was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where medical staff worked for several hours to try to save his life but Mr Fingleton died from his injuries.

Mr McEntee said: “CCTV evidence is patently clear - the defendant came up from behind Mr Fingleton, overtook him and cut across him, causing the collision.

“The prosecution can say with a degree of confidence that the defendant was clearly unaware of Mr Fingleton’s presence.”

Wrathall was arrested and told police Mr Fingleton had run into the side of him.

Mr McEntee said: “It was clearly a shock to the defendant when he saw CCTV showing Mr Fingleton entering onto the roundabout first.”

An automatic number plate recognition camera, situated on the M55 above the junction, showed Wrathall using his phone as he approached the sliproad.

Mobile phone bills also revealed a seven minute phonecall made to Wrathall’s girlfriend.

Mr McEntee told the court that the defendant manoeuvred the large van, with his racing car being towed behind, onto the roundabout with just one hand on the steering wheel.

He said: “The defendant could not safely manoeuvre his large vehicle while engaged in an ongoing conversation with his girlfriend.”

Mr McEntee added: “You will be satisfied that the standard of driving that the defendant displayed was not simply careless, did not simply fall below the standard that would be expected of a competant and careful driver but that his standard of driving fell far below that standard and that you can properly be satisfied that his driving can be described as dangerous.”

(Proceeding)