A dangerous driver who hit 91mph speeds and tailgated another car caused the death of his ex-partner and colleague after losing control and smashing into trees.
Stephen Matthew Smith, 39, was driving a dark blue BMW when it veered off the road, collided with trees and rolled over on Middridge Road, Newton Aycliffe, shortly after 6pm on Friday 9 October, 2020.
Ex-partner and colleague Kayley Robinson, 34, who was the passenger in the car, was airlifted to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough following the crash but died as a result of her injuries on October 14.
Smith, of Scarth Walk, Stockton, who was paralysed and now uses a wheelchair, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.
He was jailed for four years after appearing at Durham Crown Court on Wednesday 14 September.
Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, said shortly before 6pm Smith left work in Newton Aycliffe with Ms Robinson in the passenger seat.
When the pair left in the BMW, a witness said Smith "put his foot down" and drove off at speed - he was also seen to be "tailgating" another car.
Smith then went down Middridge Road at "very high speed" and hit 91mph in a 60mph zone, the court heard.
Ms Smithies said: "The defendant lost control of the vehicle. He himself says he has no recollection of the accident; but that is the only conclusion to be drawn from the evidence. There was no other vehicle involved."
Other motorists who arrived at the scene described the BMW as being on its roof and "smoking heavily" as Smith and Ms Robinson were trapped inside.
Passers-by came and helped out at the scene and poured water on the car as an ambulance was called.
A passing doctor also spoke to Smith, who told him he was "paralysed and couldn't breathe" while clutching a mobile phone.
Ms Smithies said: "Kayley Robinson was eventually extracted from the car by attending firefighters. She was immediately assessed by paramedics, she was not breathing and had no pulse.
"They set about resuscitating and treating her immediately. There was no evidence of obvious external injury beyond a laceration to the left forehead and eyelid. She was transported from the scene by air ambulance."
The court was told that Ms Robinson died at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough on October 14, 2020, five days after the crash.
Smith was later interviewed and gave a statement saying he had no recollection of the crash but was "absolutely devastated" by Ms Robinson death and "will never get over it".
Ms Robinson was described as a much-loved mum, sister, daughter and aunt.
The court was told that a collision investigation report concluded that the undulations in the road just before the crash scene combined with the excess speed at which Smith was travelling would have been a contributory factor for the loss of control.
Ms Smithies added: "It is impossible to be sure of what was happening in the moments before the defendant lost control – but perhaps it matters not. All that can be said with confidence is that he was driving at 91mph in circumstances where that was manifestly unsafe."
Smith had been convicted on 17 previous occasions for 20 offences including dishonesty, violent offences, and offences of public order.
The most serious matter on his record is an offence of arson endangering life in 2007. There were no driving offences on his record.
During sentencing, Judge James Adkin said: "Put simply your injuries are your fault and prisons are equipped to deal with offenders who have mobility issues. So your injuries provide only modest mitigation in the context of this case."
Smith was jailed for four years and was banned from driving for seven years.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...