Dad relives horror of seeing children in coffins after crash caused by drink driver

A father has spoken about the horror of seeing his children in their coffins after they were killed in a crash caused by a drink driver.

Each year Steve Kimberley speaks about the traumatic experience of losing son Matthew, 12, and daughter Lucy, 10, in a bid to discourage drink driving at Christmas.

The youngsters died after a Range Rover driven by a drunk man careered into them as they drove home from a football match in Plymouth.

Family friend Ben Jewell, 19, also died as a result of the collision, along with the driver of the Range Rover who was killed on impact, reports Cornwall Live.

Steve, from Falmouth, said: “My kids would still be here and I would have grandkids if the man who drove into them did not drink that fateful day.”

As part of a campaign with Devon and Cornwall Police, Mr Kimberley has recalled the horrific details as he speaks of the sobering moment he saw his two young children in coffins.

Steve, who was left badly injured and confined to a wheelchair after the crash, wants people to know that drink driving is “not OK” and can have horrendous consequences.

Ahead of the Christmas party season, which traditionally sees a spike in drink driving incidents, Steve has recorded an emotional video for the Vision Zero South West Road Safety partnership recounting the crash, of which this year is the 25th anniversary.

Recalling what happened, Steve said: “It was the 24th of July, 1996. I’d taken Matthew and Lucy, along with my good friend Ben Jewell, for a treat at the end of the school year to see Chelsea vs Plymouth Argyle in a pre-season friendly. It was a big occasion.

“After the game we headed back to the car and started our journey home. We got out of Plymouth and got down to Notter Bridge and as we came around the bend to the left and were hit at high speed by a drink driver who was driving a Range Rover.

“It hit us with such speed his car left the ground and landed the other way on the road. I remember the impact and at first there was this silence which is probably only seconds, but seems to go on for a long time while you’re trying to assess what’s happened to you.

“After those few seconds all hell broke loose – the sound of metal, breaking glass and hissing and the smell of diesel. It must have been awful for those who saw it and the emergency services who attended.

“It was carnage, absolute carnage. The driver hit us so hard that when the police arrived they couldn’t identify what type of car we had been driving.

“Ben was sitting in the front and hit the dashboard and was critically injured. Lucy was sitting behind me and was conscious at first. Matthew didn’t fare so well.”

Paramedics were soon on the scene and extracted Matthew from the car first. Steve said: “They did CPR on the roadside, but it was too late for Matthew. They got Lucy out and took her to the ambulance, but all the time I couldn’t see any of this as I was trapped and unable to turn around.

“A coach driver called Gary, who had been driving a load of Argyle fans home, got out and was with me and kept talking to me saying ‘stay with us buddy, don’t go to sleep’.

“They had to cut me and Ben out of the car. They wrapped me in something like a lead blanket to protect me from the broken glass and metal. It took a long time and there was so much going on.”

Steve was transported to Derriford Hospital with a broken collar bone, damage to his sternum and severe leg and hand injuries. He remembers being in intensive care when the news was broken to him about Matthew and Lucy.

He said: “I honestly can’t remember who it was who told me – it might have been a doctor, but it might have been my wife or my father-in-law. They just said ‘the kids are gone’.

“I thought it was a bad dream. I knew they were hurt but I had this feeling that they were going to be alright. I remember saying to someone ‘this isn’t fair, how is this fair?’.

“It just didn’t seem real, it felt like I was in someone else’s body.”

He continued: “The following week Ben’s parents had to take the decision to switch his life support machine off. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for them. He was their only son.”

Steve remembers visiting his children in a wheelchair at the chapel of rest at the hospital.

He said: “There’s something very sobering about seeing your children, covered in a white sheet, both in coffins. I remember thinking ‘that’s them, but it’s not them’ because you expect them to just run through the door.

“That was the last time I saw my children. Nobody wants to outlive their kids. I’d have willingly given my own life to save one, two or all three of those smashing young people who had their whole lives ahead of them, but unfortunately you’re not given that opportunity. They were taken away from us, and it’s not fair.

“Going to both your childrens’ funerals at the same time in your local church is something you should never had to do. Following a hearse to the crematorium in Truro with your kids in coffins ahead of you, seeing that curtain go across and knowing you are never going to see them again – I want people to know that it is not okay to drink and drive.

“If that driver hadn’t drunk any alcohol, my kids would still be here – I’d have grandkids. My youngest son would be an uncle. Matthew and Lucy would be coming round to us for Christmas and I’d be bouncing grandchildren on my knee – but that hasn’t happened.”

On the anniversary on the collision, Steve takes to Facebook to post pictures of Matthew and Lucy and tell their story, with the hope of preventing anyone who might be thinking about driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.

He said: “I know there are people out there who have seen my posts on Facebook and said they think very carefully about what they do now. I will continue to do those posts until the day I die because people need to know it is not okay.

“It’s quite simple – if you know you’re going out for a night, you can do a number of things. You could have a designated driver who you provide with free coffees and soft drinks for the night. If you can afford to drink, you can afford a taxi or an Uber or a minicab.

“If you’re not too bad, you can walk home safely. Or just don’t drink, because not having a drink won’t kill you.”

Steve also believes friends, bystanders and landlords have a major role to play in preventing incidents of drink driving.

He said: “If you’re in a group of people and someone is drinking and you know they are thinking of driving, you have a responsibility to do one of several things. Take their keys away, walk them home, call them a cab.

“Never get in a car with a driver if you know they’ve been drinking, you are putting yourself in danger. Park your car in front of theirs so they can’t get out.

“If you’re a publican and you know someone has driven to your pub, you have a responsibility to yourself, that person, their family and anyone else. Take their keys, call them a cab. It’s all about taking responsibility.

“Also, be aware – if you’ve had a drink of an evening, you could well be over the limit the following day.”