Ex-Barnsley footballer jailed over fatal crash

Richard and Angela Wong
Richard and Angela Wong

An ex-footballer who killed a "loving" and "devoted" couple after ploughing into them on the motorway while trying to use his phone as a sat nav has been jailed.

Ex-Barnsley striker Steven Bennett's truck was involved in a multi-vehicle accident on the M56 on September 19, 2019, which killed Richard and Angela Wong.

Mrs Wong, 56, was pronounced dead at the scene and Mr Wong, 62, died in hospital three days later while five other people suffered minor injuries.

Bennett, 29, who made a handful of first-team appearances for the Tykes during their 2010/11 Championship season, was jailed for five years by Chester Crown Court.

He had admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing last month.

Brian Williams, prosecuting, told Chester Crown Court the traffic was slow on the M56 causing vehicles to come to a halt.

Mr and Mrs Wong had stopped when Bennett, 29, was approaching from behind at around 50pmh despite slowing traffic.

Footage from a dashcam showed how he failed to brake until the very last second.

Bennett claimed he had been ‘momentarily’ distracted by a bird flying past, the court heard.

Mr Williams explained how it was later discovered that Bennett’s phone had been propped up behind the steering wheel as it was being used as a sat nav.

Evidence showed that just seconds before the collision, his phone had been plugged and unplugged and the screen orientation had changed twice in this time.

Steven Bennett.
Steven Bennett.

Mr Williams said: “He failed to keep any look out at all at a busy junction travelling at 50mph without paying any attention while playing on his phone.”

The court heard how Bennett has a previous conviction from June 2018 for using his mobile phone while driving and has previously spent time in jail for robbery and affray.

In a personal victim statement read to the court, Mr and Mrs Wong's son Robert spoke of the ‘deep pain’ and 'devastating impact' losing both parents has had his family.

The couple’s daughter, Charlotte, also read a personal victim statement to the court where she claimed her parents were not only her ‘guardians’ but her ‘best friends’.

She said: “I am a different person to the one I was before 19th September 2019, the day my parents were ripped from my life, my heart and my future.

"To quantify their loss is like trying to quantify the size of the black hole, it is endless and bleak. The pain I feel every day is like carrying a weight that never eases.”

They described sitting at their father's bedside and having to take the 'extremely difficult' decision to switch off his life-support machine.

Defending, Richard Barradell said what had happened was ‘absolutely unintentional’, but he acknowledged it makes ‘absolutely no difference' to Mr and Mrs Wong's family.

He claimed Bennett had been trying to sort his satnav on his phone to work due to a ‘faulty connection’ which ‘has to be contrasted’ to someone texting their friends.

Mr Barradell also said Bennett has shown ‘genuine remorse’, is ‘truly sorry’ and is a ‘hard working man’ who intends to serve his sentence as a ‘model prisoner’.

Sentencing, Judge Simon Berkson said it was ‘harrowing’ to see the dashcam footage of the accident.

He added: “You are certainly not a person of good character.”

The judge said aggravating factors were that more than one person was killed, other people were impacted and Bennett’s previous conviction for the use of a mobile phone.

Bennett was sentenced to five years in prison and was also banned from driving for four years and ordered to undertake an extended retest.

In a statement issued after their deaths, Mr and Mrs Wong's children said: “Angela and Richard were loving parents and grandparents, as well as a loving brother and sister.

“They were a devoted couple who had been married for 37 years and were well loved by all those who were fortunate to have known them – they touched the hearts and enriched the lives of everyone who knew them.

“Our parents leave behind two children, two grandchildren and an extensive family and group of friends who are all devastated by their sudden loss – they will be truly missed by everyone who knew them.

“We are forever grateful to have had them as our wonderful parents – we love them very much and they will be forever in our hearts.”

Speaking after sentencing, sergeant Andrew Dennison, of Cheshire Police, said: “While no sentence will ever bring Richard and Angela back, I hope that the conclusion of this case will provide them with some closure."

“I also hope that this case will act as a warning to others. Driving is a complex task, drivers should always give full attention to what they are doing as situations can change rapidly.

“This collision could have been easily been avoided, Bennett had a clear view of the traffic ahead of him at least 20 seconds before he hit the stationary traffic.

"But sadly he was grossly inattentive on the approach to this clear hazard.

“Once he took his eyes off the road his vehicle became a lethal weapon, and by the time he realised what was happening it was too late.

"This need to use his phone whilst driving has cost Steven Bennett his liberty and Angela and Richard their life.”

  • Story by SWNS