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Driver left scene of 'catastrophic' Shropshire crash which killed motorist and horse, court told

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

A man left the scene of a "catastrophic" collision that killed a motorist and a horse, a court heard.

Disqualified motorist Helmuts Punovskis is accused of taking part in a high-speed race on rural roads in Shropshire.

Eyewitnesses saw a green Volkswagen Passat, owned by Punovskis, and a white Fiat, being driven by Armands Ozolins, racing and tailgating, a court was told.

As the vehicles turned a bend at speed on Stump Lane, Shifnal, Mr Ozolins lost control.

He was killed in the crash and horse rider Wendy Garrett was seriously injured.

The cars were travelling between Donnington and Chadwell Farm, near Newport, when tragedy struck, Shrewsbury Crown Court was told.

Mrs Garrett was riding her horse along the route and another motorist was driving his van slowly behind her, the jury was told.

The van driver had just overtaken Mrs Garrett and her horse when the green car came around the bend at high speed on the wrong side of the road.

While Punovskis avoided any collision, Mr Ozolins, 26, of Great Chatwell near Newport, smashed into Mrs Garrett and her horse and sent them both flying into the air, prosecutor Mr Hugh O'Brien Quinn said.

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The court heard how Mr Ozolins crashed into the grass verge and a hedge by Damson Lane and suffered severe injuries before he died in hospital the next day.

The horse was also killed in the crash and Mrs Garrett lost a finger and suffered serious cuts and bruises that needed skin grafts.

She has no memory of the accident.

Punovskis told Shrewsbury Crown Court that he was not driving on the day of the smash.

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Neighbours and builders working nearby rushed to the scene where Punovskis was seen holding his friend Ozolins and covered in his blood before getting into the Passat and leaving the area.

He was later discovered at Chadwell Farm by police where a woman with a one-month-old baby was seen sitting in the driver's seat. It is this woman, Liga Jaskova, that Punovskis said had been driving the car.

Liga Jaskova initially said she was driving the car

The court heard how Jaskova, who initially admitted that she was driving the car, had since come forward to police to say she was pressured into saying so. She has pleaded guilty to one count of perverting the course of justice.

Mr O'Brien Quinn said the two men were "racing and dangerous-driving for a prolonged period of time".

He added that while Punovskis did not hit anything, he was "responsible" due to racing and tailgating along rural country roads, which led to the fatal smash.

The crown also claims the defendant told police the wrong name on purpose to avoid being found out to be a disqualified driver, a claim the defendant also denies.

The court also heard how no-one could identify Punovskis as the driver on the day of the accident in September 2012.

The 31-year-old, of Turreff Avenue in Donnington, stands accused of one count of death by dangerous driving and another of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. Punovskis denies both charges.

On the first day of the trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court yesterday, Judge Jonathan Gosling told the jury, of seven women and five men, that they must decide whether Punovskis was behind the wheel at the time that this "catastrophic collision" took place.

Mrs Garrett had also been with her pet Springer Spaniel on that day, who was unhurt.

The court heard that there were no problems detected with either vehicle.

The trial continues.

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