Drink driver jailed for causing death of Newcastle woman on New Year's Day cycle ride

Laura Duncalfe, 31, was cycling back from Tynemouth when she was hit by the drink driver on New Year's Day 2022. Credit: NCJM

A drink driver who struck and fatally injured a cyclist on New Year's Day has been jailed.

Craig Wagner was still over the legal alcohol limit and was breaking the speed limit when he lost control as he drove home early on 1 January 2022.

His car hit Laura Duncalfe, who had been for an early morning ride to Tynemouth and was heading back to her home Newcastle.

The 31-year-old suffered serious head injuries and died on 23 January.

Wagner, who admitted causing death by careless driving while over the drink drive limit, was sentenced to 32 months in prison when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday 3 October.

Craig Wagner had been out drinking with friends the night before he climbed behind the wheel of his Peugeot 208. Credit: NCJM

The court heard the collision happened on the morning of New Year's Day 2022 as Ms Duncalfe was heading back towards her Spital Tongues home, along the riverside on Cycle Route 72, having ridden Tynemouth.

Ian West, prosecuting, said the defendant had been out for New Year's Eve and stayed over at a friend's flat.

"At approximately 9am, the defendant left the flat and got into his car to return home," he added. "His route took him in a westerly direction along St Lawrence Road.

"The speed limit for St Lawrence Road at that point is 20 mph. While approaching a nearside left-hand bend prior to Foundry Court, the defendant’s car moved into the opposite side of the road.

"The offside front wheel of his vehicle struck the kerb on the north side of the carriageway, deflating the front offside tyre, mounted the pedestrian pavement and collided with Laura Duncalfe, who was still seated on her pedal cycle."

Wagner remained at the scene, and rang for an ambulance, saying that he had collided with a cyclist.

When asked by police at the scene what had happened, he said: "I was going around the corner, erm lost control because I was going about 30 maybe 40 and I just crashed into her."

He provided a positive breath test at the scene and later, at the police station at 10:15am, he gave two samples of breath, with a lower reading of 47 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35.

A forensic collision report found no evidence to suggest Ms Duncalfe was in any way at fault.

As well as the 32-month prison sentence, Wagner, 31, of Willington, County Durham, who has no previous convictions, will be banned from driving for five years after he is released and will have to take an extended driving test to have any chance of getting his licence back.

Paul Cross, defending, said: "It is arguable that, although this is not a momentary lapse of concentration case, the actual cause of the loss of control of the vehicle was a momentary lapse.

"The defendant clearly failed to anticipate the upcoming bend and so lost control of his vehicle."

He added: "Not only does the defendant have no convictions or cautions, he had a good career, he was buying a house and has a pet dog. He is otherwise a thoroughly upright citizen."

"It is plain that this incident has had a very big effect on the defendant," Mr Cross continued. "The defendant is someone who has been actively involved in charity work."

Paying tribute to Ms Duncalfe, her family said previously: “Laura was a wonderful partner, daughter and sister. She worked tirelessly for the benefit of others and lived her life courageously and to the full. She will be sorely missed by us all.”

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