FULL STORY: Driver in Royston death crash jailed for three years

A 58-YEAR-OLD man has been sentenced to three years in prison after falling asleep at the wheel and fatally hitting a Royston toddler.

Carlo Zambonini, formerly of Old North Road in Royston, received the jail term for causing death by dangerous driving at Cambridge Crown Court on Friday.

Zambonini, who at an earlier hearing had pleaded guilty to the offence, was also given a driving ban.

The court heard how on May 29 last year he hit three-year-old Frances Chin, who lived near to Zambonini on Old North Road, and family friend Shirley Yong, as the young girl walked with her sister, Chloe, and mother Sally Kong.

Frances died of her injuries in hospital, with Mrs Yong’s leg left broken in two places below the knee.

She was hospitalised for five days and required surgery.

Frances and Mrs Yong were walking hand-in-hand as Zambonini drove down Kneesworth Street in his Mazda sports car.

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Sara Walker, prosecuting, said: “As he was driving towards them he left the road and mounted the pavement moving on the driver side towards the group and colliding with Shirley and Frances, who were closest to the road at the time.”

The court heard how Mrs Yong described being struck and felt Frances “come away from her”.

Several witnesses to the crash, including a firefighter, tried to resuscitate Frances but to no avail.

Mrs Walker told the court that, after he had been arrested, Zambonini said: “I have never hurt anyone in my life and the next thing I’m falling asleep at the wheel because I’m working too hard.”

Mrs Kong, who was not present at the hearing, has been left traumatised by her daughter’s death. Adding to the anguish, Frances’ autistic sister is to this day asking where she is.

On the day of the toddler’s death, the former teacher had three pints of bitter at a pub and was driving to see a friend when he fell asleep at the wheel.

A breathalyser at the scene and a blood test later put him over the limit.

Zambonini had been prescribed lithium, which is often used as a mood stabiliser for those suffering from bi-polar disorder or depression.

He had been taking the drug while drinking on the day of the crash.

After the collision he remained at the scene and was seen weeping in his car.

Once in police questioning, Zambonini said he “wanted to get 14 years” – the maximum prison sentence for death by dangerous driving.

In mitigation, the court heard of his previous good character and charitable work in Royston.

Minka Braun, defending, told the court about the state he was in after the collision.

She said: “He was barely able to speak, much less understand or explain ... the situation he found himself in. He was in shock then and remains so.

“Since that day he hasn’t slept and hasn’t been able to perform his daily routine properly.

“He is as sorry as anyone can be for this horrendous accident.”

Sentencing, Judge Anthony Bate said: “You are a 58-year-old retired teacher from north Royston, previously of good character; you had a full clean driving license at the time of this incident.

“Your friends spoke of your record of charity and community work and the impact of the accident upon you.”

PC Martin Longley, from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit, who investigated the collision, said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Frances Chin, who have shown tremendous courage throughout what has been an extremely harrowing experience for them.

“The sentence passed reflects the severity of what Carlo Zambonini has done and the consequences driving dangerously have on society.

“Nothing can ever bring Frances back but I hope that the sentence will allow her family some closure.”