'I'm so sorry' says car driver who mowed down 15-year-old Dylan Crossey as he cycled home near Penwortham
The driver who ploughed into 15-year-old cyclist Dylan Crossey and then failed to stop has issued a public apology to the boy's family at his inquest.
David Harwood spent almost four hours in the witness box in Preston yesterday before turning to Dylan's mum Tracey Milligan and telling her how sorry he was.
"I would like to say to Tracey there is absolutely no words I can say to make this better for you," he said before Coroner Dr James Adeley.
"I truly am genuinely sorry for your loss."
Ms Milligan was in tears as she sat with family and friends in the courtroom.
It wasn't the only time in a harrowing day that she had broken down when coming face-to-face with Harwood in the same room.
She was in tears when the 46-year-old former director of HB Panelcraft in Preston was first brought into the hearing mid-morning.
And relatives had to console her when Harwood was asked to describe the terrible events of October 7, 2016 when his silver BMW mowed Dylan down on a country lane at Whitestake as he was cycling home with his 14-year-old best friend.
The teenager sustained "unsurvivable" head injuries after being thrown over the car and into the road.
But even though he admitted hearing a loud bang and having his windscreen broken, Harwood didn't even slow down and drove off to a rendezvous with a woman he had only just met on a dating site.
The inquest heard he went to the woman's house in Buckshaw Village, but returned later by a different route to his home in New Longton.
It was only the following morning that Harwood examined the damage to his company car and admitted to family members he had "hit something in the road" the previous night.
Harwood’s brother Neil had been warned by the coroner the previous day for failing to answer questions about a statement he gave the day after the tragedy in which he told police David had told him and their father that he had been “punching in” the postcode of his online date when the collision occurred.
When asked about his brother’s original claims that he had been distracted by the satnav system he replied “absolutely not.”
David Harwood claimed he had put the address into the device before he had set off driving from his home in New Longton.
Asked why he had not examined the damage to his car when he arrived at the woman’s house and had left it until the following day to look at the vehicle, he said: “I should have done. Absolutely. “
The inquest was told Harwood was a qualified accident damage assessor and had dealt with vehicles in 18 years in the trade which had been involved in collisions with pedestrians.
Dr Adeley suggested that experience meant he could recognise a car which had been in an accident with a person. Yet Harwood maintained he thought it could have been a dog or another animal and only realised what had happened when he learned from social media that Dylan was critically ill in hospital the morning after the crash.
He told the jury of seven men and four women that he had finished work on the Friday afternoon around 5:15pm and had been to Booths supermarket before calling at the Framers Arms pub in Whitestake "for an hour" at around 5:45 to 6pm.
He said he drank two pints of Carling lager and then went home before ordering a kebab takeaway from Leyland and driving to pick it up, arriving back at his house at around 8pm.
He had a small glass of red wine with his meal and then decided to have an early night because he was working the following day. Once in bed he started up a conversation with a woman called Angie he had met on the dating site Zoosk.
The couple chatted for a while and then Harwood asked if he could go round to her house in Buckshaw Village. She agreed and so he got up, had a bath, a shave and brushed his teeth before setting off at around 11pm.
He claimed he put the postcode of her address into the satnav in his car before he set off driving.
He recalled driving along Wham Lane/Chainhouse Lane at around 40mph and said: “All of a sudden there was a bang. I didn’t see anything at all. I had absolutely no idea what hit the car.
"I didn't see any (bicycle) reflectors, nothing in the headlights of my car, or under street lights. It was quite a loud bang and I noticed there was some damage to the windscreen on the left-hand side."
But instead of stopping to see what had happened, he carried on, not even slowing down. “I just drove,” he added. “I just carried on. I was just shocked.”
Pushed by the coroner that he should have stopped to check what he had hit, he said: “With hindsight I absolutely should have stopped the car. Yes.”
When asked about his brother’s original claims to police - which he later said were wrong - that he had been inputting an address into the satnav system, he replied “absolutely not.”
Asked why he had not examined the damage to his car when he arrived at the woman’s house and had left it until the following day to look at the vehicle he said: “I should have done. Absolutely. “
The inquest heard that after spending around 25 minutes at the woman’s house he left to drive back home, but took a different route back which meant he did not pass the scene of the crash in Chainhouse Lane. He insisted he had taken that route because it was where satnav took him.
The woman claimed earlier in the inquest that Harwood had seemed "agitated" when he was at her home and kept looking out of the window into the street where his car was parked.
He said: "I suppose I was a bit apprehensive at seeing a girl for the first time. She seemed stand-offish, not like she had been on the phone. I could tell she wasn't interested, so I was thinking of making some small talk and then departing."
The Coroner asked why he had driven back home a completely different way to the route he had taken to get to the woman's address. Harwood explained his satnav directed him through country lanes because he had emerged at the opposite end of Buckshaw Village.
Dr Adeley said the original route would have taken him back past the collision site in Chainhouse Lane. "You wouldn't want to drive back past the collision site where you knew someone may have been struck by your vehicle." Harwood denied that.
When he got home to New Longton he said he didn't even look at the damage to his car and just went to bed.
"I had quite a bad night's sleep because the bang kept going off in my head," he explained. "It kept happening in my head and it was quite loud. I was distressed."
Harwood eventually went to the police the following day to report he had hit something in the road and was arrested.
Asked again why he didn't realise his car had hit a bicycle, then a 15-year-old boy had landed on the bonnet and then struck the windscreen. he added: "I don't know why."
"I saw nothing on the pavement. It was dark. It didn't see anybody. I looked in my rear view mirror and didn't see anything."
Harwood also denied his was the car that an eye-witness saw further up the road driving "erratically" just moments after the collision. "Definitely not," he said.