Reckless driver jailed for causing death of three teenagers in high-speed crash

From left, Louis Banks, Aaron Bell and Tommy Shevels.

A man has been jailed for nine years and four months for causing the deaths of three teenagers in a crash near Bedale.

Joshua Chapman, 19, of Mosquito Garth, Bedale, was told he must serve at least two thirds of the sentence behind bars before being eligible for release on licence.

Chapman admitted three charges of causing death by dangerous driving when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court this morning.

18-year-old Aaron Bell, from Jervaulx, 18-year-old Tommy Shevels, and 17-year-old Louis Banks, who were both from Healey, died at the scene of the collision on July 29, 2022.

They had been travelling in a grey 1.9-litre Alfa Romeo 147 driven by Chapman car when it was involved in a single-vehicle crash on the B6268, Masham Road, near Thornton Watlass, Bedale.

Chapman, who was 18 at the time of the crash, also sustained serious injuries including multiple fractures and a head injury. He was hospitalised for a number of weeks and told police that he had no recollection of the incident.

Prosecutor Mark Smith said that the three young men were all highly promising in their chosen professions of farming and timber milling, were killed when Chapman “lost control of his vehicle” while travelling at about 75mph in a 60mph zone on the evening.

Mr Smith said the three victims were friends and they all went to Bedale High School where Chapman was also a former pupil.

He said that others in the social group already had misgivings about Chapman’s “reckless” driving behaviour.

Two young women, who were part of the same social circle, said that about a week before the collision they had been driven into Ripon by Chapman to get a takeaway and were alarmed by his manner of driving which they described as “fast all the time”.

They said that at one point Chapman, who passed his test about 10 months before the fatal collision, “bragged he was going about 120mph”.

“Both women vowed never to go into a car with him again,” said Mr Smith.

On the day of the accident, the social group, including the same young women, met up in Masham and went for a drink at the White Bear pub and Black Sheep Brewery where Chapman drank “one or two pints” of beer.

Mr Smith said that although alcohol was found in his system following the collision, police were not able to do a back calculation to test whether he was over the drink-drive limit or not.

“At about 10.15pm, the defendant asked if anyone fancied going to McDonald’s and Aaron, Tommy and Louis said yes,” added Mr Smith.

They got into Chapman’s car and drove out to Bedale. Another of Chapman’s friends who wasn’t in the car said he heard the vehicle accelerate hard as it drove off.

The friend described Chapman’s manner of driving as “showing off, driving too quickly and flinging around corners”.

As Chapman pulled into the car park at McDonald’s in Leeming Bar, he collided with a plastic sign. All four young men went inside to get a takeaway, had their food and got back in the vehicle, whereupon Chapman’s driving was reckless from the outset, even in the McDonald’s car park.

“Footage shows him accelerating hard through the car park onto the wrong side of the road marking and across the junction without slowing,” said Mr Smith.

Chapman sped across the T-junction or mini roundabout, sped round a corner and headed back towards Masham.

As the vehicle left Leeming Bar at about 10.50pm, Louis Banks sent one of his female friends a Snapchat video from the back of the car which showed that music was playing.

She said the video showed her friend’s “body getting chucked around in the back of the car”.

Louis sent a message to his friend saying: “OMG, please save me.”

Mr Smith said although it could never be proved what that meant, it could be surmised that it was a comment about Chapman’s reckless driving.

“All the phones of the young men went silent shortly thereafter,” he added.

As the vehicle sped down the B6268, a couple in the car in front noticed a vehicle tailgating them and “beeping his horn continuously”.

“(The male driver) pulled to the side to allow the car to pass him (but) it did not,” said Mr Smith.

As the male driver increased his speed, the Romeo drew closer towards the back of his car as Chapman kept beeping his horn.

Both vehicles came to a stop at temporary traffic lights at some roadworks but “after about 30 seconds (Chapman) revved his car and pulled out around (the motorist)”, before driving through a red light despite the “poor visibility ahead”.

As the male motorist drove along the roadworks, he noticed a car had come off the road and struck a tree. He turned his car around and realised it was the same car that had overtaken him at the lights.

“He realised very quickly that all the occupants of the car were unresponsive, except for groaning coming from the driver,” said Mr Smith.

“He and another driver tried to provide some help and called police, but what they could do was very limited.”

Mr Smith said the Romeo had negotiated a series of bends at speed and finally tried to take a sweeping right-hand bend at about 75mph where the collision occurred. On the approach to the crash site, there were signs warning about bends and a ‘Slow’ sign painted on the road.

Mr Smith said the victims’ friends were in the pub in Masham at the time, waiting for them to return with takeaway food, before learning of the “devastating” news.

Chapman, who worked as a labourer on a local estate, was kept in hospital until September 2022. When he was finally fit to be quizzed by police, he told them he had little recollection of the tragic events but claimed he was a “careful driver”.

“Others described him as a stupid driver,” said Mr Smith.

The court heard harrowing victim statements from the parents and family members of each of the three young men who “had the world at their feet” and were very successful in their studies and chosen professions.

Nicola Percy, Aaron Bell’s mother, described her son, who excelled at sports including rugby and cricket, as “talented, strong and gifted”, with a kind heart.

He had excelled in rugby at Bishop Burton, the agricultural, equine and land-based college, and had achieved a B-Tech Level 3 “with distinction” in sport. He had planned to go to university and then work on the family farm and show his sheep.

Louis Banks also worked on his family farm and Tommy Shevels worked for the family sawmill business and on local farms. He loved motorbikes and mountain biking and was a successful bike racer in his own right.

Defence barrister Jazmine Lee said that Chapman, who wore a black suit and tie in the dock, had since undergone counselling “to try to come to terms with the colossal guilt that he feels every day and that he will feel for the rest of his life”.

Judge Jonathan Carroll said the case was an “absolute tragedy for all concerned”.

He told Chapman: “Most seriously, it is a tragedy for the three young lives lost as a result of your actions.

“It was equally a tragedy for the friends and family of those three young men. No-one could fail to be moved from their testimony, promising young men that they were.”

He added: “The loss to all three families is catastrophic, leaving holes that can’t be filled, depriving each of them of normal family milestones, Christmases, marriages and births.

“No sentence that I can pass can give each of these families what they most want dearly: their lost son and brother back within the family home.”

The judge described Chapman’s driving as “appalling” and told him: “You will have to live with the consequences of (your actions) for the remainder of your life.”

He said that Chapman’s driving in the McDonald’s car park “demonstrates that you used driving to show off at speed, with risk-taking”.

He noted Chapman’s “aggressive” driving behind the motorist on the approach to the roadworks and said that it was “simply not possible” to negotiate a sweeping bend at such “grossly excessive” speeds.

“The harm could hardly be greater,” added Mr Carroll.

“You caused the death of three young men who had everything to live for.”

Mr Carroll said although he accepted Chapman was “genuinely remorseful” and he and his family had also suffered from the tragedy, he had to balance that with the “catastrophic” consequences for the victims and their families.

Chapman was banned from driving for ten years.

Sergeant Ed Drake, of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Collision Investigation Team, said: “This was an absolute tragic and completely avoidable loss of three young lives.

“Joshua Chapman is now facing the consequences of his dangerous driving, but no sentence can ever compensate for the loss of Louis, Aaron and Tommy, the lives they would have lived and the pain their grieving families are going through.

“This catastrophic collision must serve as a lesson to everyone, particular young drivers, of the importance of being in control of your vehicle at all times. Driving within in the law, within your own capabilities and according to the road conditions is paramount in keeping you, your passengers and other road users safe.

“Our thoughts remain with the families and loved ones of Louis, Aaron and Tommy. I would also like to acknowledge and thank them for their immense patience and understanding during what has been a lengthy and traumatic investigation.”

 

 

The families of Louis, Aaron and Tommy have released the following tributes:

Louis

Louis Banks NEW PHOTO.png

“Losing Louis has changed our lives forever.

“Louis was a good, kind, loving beautiful boy inside and out.  His beautiful cheeky smile lit up a room. On the 29th July 22 we joined a club we never wanted to be in and now can never leave. Bereaved parents.

“His siblings Harry & Gracie losing their loving noisy annoying brother.

“Louis loved life and farming, a ball of constant energy, he had big plans for his life, he knew that farming was all he wanted to do.

“He was a hard-working young man who would do anything to help anyone. He had his whole life in front of him. He had a fantastic circle of friends who I know miss him dearly.

“Louis never got embarrassed to show his feelings, he never had the grunting teenager stage, there was always a‘love ya’ at the end of the day and those where his last words to me, my birthday the day he was killed .

“We miss the joy, the noise, the laughter that Louis brought to our lives, the silence now is deafening. Nothing I write can do my boy justice. Louis should still be here but he’s not.

“We will be forever proud and lucky to have had him in our lives for those 17 years. Our love for him will always remain.

“Our beautiful boy Louis.”

 

Aaron

Aaron Bell NEW family montage.jpg

“Aaron had become an inspirational young man, he was our world, our son, Lukes big bro and our best buddy.

“He was a kind, caring and hardworking. Aaron was a talented sportsman, fast, strong, gifted, witty yet humble.

“He was tenacious and his love and passion for rugby, cricket, showing sheep and life was unwavering.

“Aaron was destined to succeed in whatever he wanted to do. He had the world at his feet. He had a cheeky smile and a contagious laugh that would light up any room. He was one of the reasons we got up in the morning. Aarons zest for life was an ever-burning flame, igniting passion and inspiration in everyone who had the privilege to know him.  He touched so many lives.

“Aaron was an adored grandson and nephew.

“He leaves behind his rugby brothers and close friends who have been an incredible source of strength and comfort to us.

“A life so full of promise cut short, cruelly taken from us all.  Our world has fallen apart and our lives forever changed.  Our hearts are broken and the unimaginable pain from losing a child will stay with us for ever.

“A huge hole has been left that can never be filled.  No sentence today will justify the loss of Aaron, his life needlessly taken.  We have to live with the consequences of the driver’s actions for the rest of our lives, we are as a family living a life sentence for something that should never have happened.

“Grief is a lonely road to walk.  Grief is just love that has no place to go, Grief is the price we are now paying for loving Aaron, and we loved him more than words can describe.

“As much as we are forever broken inside, we have made a promise to our boys, Aaron, and Luke that we will find some strength no matter how long it takes us to try and live life again and we will use Aaron’s memories to be our inspiration for today and all our tomorrows.”

 

Tommy

Tommy Shevels.png

“Losing our eldest son Tommy has devastated our family’s lives and the heartbreak has left huge holes in our hearts. Our younger son Ted is completely devastated. He loved and looked up to Tommy, he is missing him terribly as we all are.

“Tommy was the friendliest, kindest, and most caring boy. He was full of enthusiasm for life. Tommy was a boy who always had time for others and loved spending time with his family and friends, always with the biggest smile on his face.

“Our biggest regret is that we weren’t there to stop Tommy, Louis and Aaron getting in Joshua Chapman’s car on the night of the 29 of July 2022.  His reckless behaviour devastated the lives of three families that night.

“We are so proud of the young man Tommy was turning into and we are going to love and miss him forever.”

 

3 Comments

  1. We must stop this kind of behaviour . Every night in our village the local idiots come out , driving far too fast for their capabilities .These deaths were totally avoidable and should be a salutary lesson to young drivers to slow down but I doubt it will have any effect, unfortunately

  2. A very difficult read & beyond awful for the victims’ families.

    It is a relief to know that a driver so reckless as is described here will be off the roads for a good while.

    Driving/being a passenger in a car is for most of us the most dangerous thing that we do. It feels so safe. What could go wrong? The statistics are there for all to see.

    Next time I get behind the wheel, I will remind myself & concentrate only on the driving.

  3. A 10-year driving ban isn’t much use seeing as he’ll be in prison for most of that time. More effective (and cheaper for us taxpayers) would have been a lifetime ban plus years of unpaid community service.

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