Crash tragedy heartbreak for pregnant widow

THE pregnant widow of an Afghanistan war veteran who died following a road crash in Yorkshire has spoken of her heartache as a Portuguese van driver appeared in court charged in connection with the death.

Air Trooper James Richard Ashdown, 23, died in hospital three days after the car he was driving was involved in a collision with a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van on the A1 in North Yorkshire.

His widow, Siobahn, 21, who is three months pregnant with their second child, was a passenger in the car along with their seven-month-old baby daughter, Leilah, and her brother, Stephen, 32.

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Mrs Ashdown, who had been married for less than three months before her husband's death, revealed yesterday how he had abandoned a childhood dream of becoming a pilot as he wanted to become a father.

She said: "He sacrificed the idea of becoming a pilot to become a dad. He was more proud of becoming a dad than anything else he had ever done. All he ever wanted was to be a dad and be there for his family."

Trooper Ashdown suffered critical injuries when his red Suzuki Swift car was involved in the crash on the southbound carriageway of the A1 between junctions 48 and 47 near Boroughbridge.

He was taken by air ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary, where he lost his fight for life on Sunday last weekend.

The driver of the van which was involved in the crash is due to make his first appearance at York Crown Court on Friday after he was arrested and charged with dangerous driving and causing death by dangerous driving.

Joao Paulo Augusto Garcia, 32, from Teivas in Portugal, appeared yesterday before Harrogate magistrates, who remanded him in custody ahead of the crown court hearing.

The crash, which happened at just after 3pm on Thursday, August 26, caused massive disruption for drivers on the A1, with some motorists stuck in traffic queues for over four hours.

Trooper Ashdown's wife and seven-month-old daughter were taken to Harrogate District Hospital where they were treated before being released. His brother-in-law was also taken to Leeds General Infirmary where he was treated before being discharged by doctors.

A motorist from York caught in the tailbacks, said: "It is heart-breaking to think that someone has lost their life – especially someone who is so young with such a young family."

Trooper Ashdown, who was a member of 9 Regiment Army Air Corps (9 AAC), was a veteran of two operational tours to Afghanistan where he worked on the Apache attack helicopters at Camp Bastion.

From the age of six, Trooper Ashdown had wanted to be a pilot and through his school days at Wigginton Primary School, Easingwold Secondary School and York College, he followed his ambition by becoming an Air Cadet.

He signed up to the Army at 17 and after he had completed his basic training, he joined 663 Squadron 3 AAC at Dishforth in February before he married in June.

His widow said her husband had been "a bit of a joker" but had displayed a gritty determination. She added: "He would always try hard to work his way through things but he was a very happy and easy-going person who just enjoyed life and was very tolerant of other people."

An inquest into the death was opened and adjourned on Thursday.

North Yorkshire Police officers have urged witnesses to contact them. Anyone with information can call the North Yorkshire force on 0845 6060247.