An tractor driver who killed a mother out cycling with her teenage son in a horror crash after he checked his Snapchat has been jailed for more than eight years.
Reckless Jonathan Sumner claimed he had been blinded by the sun when he ploughed into ‘devoted and selfless’ Helen Wickham, also seriously injuring her 19-year-old son.
The 53-year-old died at the scene while the teenager’s legs were crushed, leaving him with ‘serious life-changing physical and mental injuries’ and needing emergency surgery.
Investigations revealed 33-year-old Sumner – who was towing a field roller behind the farm vehicle – had looked at videos on Snapchat a minute before the collision and had also been exceeding the 20mph speed limit set for his 11-ton vehicle.
Ms Wickham and her son had been enjoying a ride along the A54 Holmes Chapel Road in Brereton Heath, Cheshire, on the sunny evening of April 27, 2020.
Helen Wickham, 53, died at the scene of the crash while her teenager’s legs were crushed
Jonathan Sumner, of Arclid, Cheshire, was jailed for eight years and six months on Friday
In his initial account, Sumner stated he did not see the cyclists ahead of him, and only realised what had happened when he felt the field roller move and looked in his rear-view mirror.
He claimed that the low sun had blinded him, but from witness accounts and revisiting the scene, officers concluded that although the sun was low, Sumner would have had sufficient visibility as sections of the road were in the shade.
Experts concluded the mother and son would have been in view from a distance of around 210m – if Sumner had been looking.
A vehicle examiner determined there were no faults with the vehicle which would have caused a loss of control, but Sumner was travelling faster than the permitted speed limit of 20mph for the combination of tractor and trailer which he was driving.
A full examination of his mobile phone was carried out, which showed he had been using it while driving, including viewing images and videos on Snapchat one minute before the collision.
At the time of the impact, the phone screen was illuminated with a WhatsApp message, although it hadn’t yet been opened at the time.
Ms Wickham’s son needed emergency surgery and was taken to hospital after the smash.
Sumner was arrested on the day of the incident and released under investigation while enquiries were carried out.
He was charged in August 2022 and previously pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Sumner, of Arclid, Cheshire, was jailed for eight years and six months at Chester Crown Court on Friday, November 10.
He will also be subject to a five-year driving ban upon his release.
Following Sumner’s sentencing, Ms Wickham’s family paid tribute to her.
They said: ‘What happened that day was totally avoidable.
Ms Wickham and her son had been enjoying a ride along the A54 Holmes Chapel Road
‘Not only did he take away a wonderful, caring, devoted and selfless person, he also caused our son to sustain serious life-changing physical and mental injuries.
‘We enjoyed a very close family relationship, with a lot of love, and losing Helen has left a massive void in our lives.
‘Helen was so full of life, she had an amazing smile, bright, sparkling, loving eyes, and her presence would light up any room.
‘She was well loved by all who were fortunate to have been a part of her life.
‘Helen was always attending and running social events, she was always there for other people.
‘She approached everything in life with passion and determination. Helen was enthusiastic and a driving force in everything that she did, she really did touch a huge number of lives.
‘She gave time to love’ is written on Helen’s headstone which sums up the beautiful, wonderful, caring woman Helen was.
‘When she died, everyone who knew her lost someone so very special and that’s the most devastating feeling to have.
‘One of the hardest things to come to terms with is life is fragile, it brings it home to you that it can change in a moment.’
Sergeant Simon Degg, of Cheshire Constabulary, added: ‘Sumner’s actions back in April 2020 have devastated a family and should serve as a reminder of the vital importance of paying full attention while driving.
‘Sumner was essentially driving a lethal weapon. He was in control of a combined 11-tons, yet he thought it was appropriate to be on his mobile phone.
‘This collision was completely avoidable, and I hope the sentence handed to Sumner will provide some form of closure for Helen’s family.
‘Our thoughts remain with Helen’s loved ones, and we would like to pay tribute to their bravery throughout the course of this investigation.’