Sunderland pensioner admits causing crash that injured children

Margaret Lowery, 79, entered a guilty plea at Durham Crown Court to the charge of dangerous driving

Margaret Lowery, 79 leaving Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court
Margaret Lowery, 79 leaving Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court

A pensioner has admitted causing a crash which left two young children left fighting for their lives.

Margaret Lowery, 79, from Sunderland, was behind the wheel of a vehicle when it careered on to the wrong side of the road and crashed into an oncoming car.

Jack Handyside, 11, and his sister Sophie were lucky to survive after the horrific smash that left the pair fighting for their lives.

In a bid to save Jack, medics intricately removed two sections of his skull to ease the pressure on his swelling brain as he spent 15 weeks in hospital.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service last night confirmed Lowery had entered a guilty plea to a charge of dangerous driving at Durham Crown Court.

The children’s mother Julie Elstob, 42, from Butterknowle, near Bishop Auckland, said: “When the accident happened it was just a nightmare. It’s impossible to describe how you feel in that situation where your two young children are just laying helpless in intensive care.

“To have them fighting back is just such a relief and the driver taking some responsibility is the next step in our battle for justice.

“It is disappointing it has taken this long for the defendant to plead guilty as the crash seemed to be clearly her fault.”

She added: “They have both done so well and are incredibly brave, but we still have a long way to go. I hope all drivers take note of our situation and realise that there are massive consequences of car accidents.”

Butterknowle Primary School pupils Jack and Sophie were on their way to a swimming session with their father, Darren, 45, when the car they were driving in was involved in a crash with a Rover 400 driven on September 29 last year.

It sparked one of the biggest rescue operations in Air Ambulance history with three helicopters deployed to the isolated A688 near Raby Castle, near Staindrop, County Durham. The children were airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where they spent a combined total of more than four months in intensive care.

Sophie, now nine, had a fractured skull and broken wrist. Jack had a bleed on the brain, which was severely swollen. Both had short-term memory loss and it is not known how their injuries will improve in the future.

Jack, who was in intensive care for two weeks and neuro rehab for a further 13 weeks, has had a miracle recovery, even starting back at school, while Sophie returned to school before Christmas.

John Davis, an expert serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell ‘s Newcastle office, is representing the family in their efforts to get compensation that will help secure a rehabilitation package.

Last night he said: “This was a devastating crash for these young children and we are now working with the family to help them through this difficult period of rehabilitation and recovery.

“The impact of the injuries is life-changing not only for Sophie and Jack but the whole family and it is crucial that they receive the specialist support they all need as they battle back from this trauma.

“Now that the criminal proceedings are over we can now hopefully move forward with agreeing liability with the defendants insurers to help provide the necessary funds to help provide Sophie and Jack with their recovery.”

The CPS spokesman said Lowery would be sentenced on November 12.

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