Drink-driver, 76, ran over 10-year-old cyclist from Pulborough before driving home with bike still trapped under his car

A drink-driver who ran over a child causing him serious injuries has been locked up for more than two years.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 5:28 pm

The child, from Pulborough, was cycling along Church Street, West Chiltington, with his father and another adult when he was hit from behind by a black Renault Twingo, police said. The impact caused him to flip over his handlebars and onto the road, where the car continued to drive over him.

A spokesman added: “Members of the public including the two other cyclists desperately tried to warn the driver that the boy was trapped beneath his vehicle, but he ignored their pleas.

“He subsequently reversed over the boy, seriously injuring him and destroying his cycle helmet, before driving away.”

The abandoned car, inset Keith Vernon

Emergency services responded to the incident, which happened about 10.20pm on October 6, and the boy was taken to hospital having sustained a broken collar bone, a fractured vertebrae, a fractured pelvis, a dislocated hip and a burn covering the left side of his face, police said. The spokesman added: “Thankfully, he is now recovering.”

Police attended the address of the registered owner of the Twingo, which was discovered unattended and having mounted a kerb, with the victim’s bike still trapped beneath.

The spokesman said: The driver was identified as Keith Vernon, 76, retired, of Holly Close, West Chiltington.

“He was breathalysed and found to have 77mcg of alcohol per 100ml of breath in his system. The legal limit is 35mcg.

The smashed helmet, which police said prevented the child being more badly hurt.

“Vernon was subsequently arrested and charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving, drink-driving and failing to stop after a road traffic collision.

“He pleaded guilty to the offences at Worthing Magistrates’ Court on 23 February and was released on conditional bail ahead of sentencing at Hove Crown Court on 20 May.

“There, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and was disqualified from driving for four-and-a-half years. His sentence was reduced for his early guilty plea.”

Her Honour Judge Barnes said Vernon deliberately made a conscious decision to drive when drunk, police said. She did not accept that he had not seen the cyclists, and added that he had a desire to protect himself before anyone else.

Vernon drove home with the bike trapped under his car

Her Honour Judge Barnes did not accept that Vernon did not know the child was under his car. She also commented how any father could put himself over a child was beyond belief.

She added that Vernon made the decision to go home, despite stating he was traumatised, and made no attempt to call 999 or return to the scene, said police. Her Honour Judge Barnes said there is no blame whatsoever to be put on the cyclists.

Senior Investigating officer, Sergeant Richard Hornsey, formerly of the Serious Collision Investigations Unit, added: “Vernon was driving home after drinking in a local pub and was over the drink-drive limit when he collided with the cyclist. This was clearly a traumatic incident for those directly involved, but it has also affected the wider community.

“Vernon ignored the pleas of the bystanders, which included the child’s father, and they described the wheels of the car spinning as Vernon tried to drive away while the child and the bicycle were trapped underneath.

Keith Vernon

“The child was wearing a cycle helmet which received significant damage but protected him from a more serious head injury.

“Vernon drove for over a quarter of a mile through the village with the bicycle trapped under his car, but at no point did he stop to check if the cyclist was still underneath, which shows a complete disregard for the safety of other road users.”