Tragedy of over limit teen driver from Leeds who drowned in ditch after crash

A TEENAGE driver from a Leeds village drowned when her car plunged into a drainage ditch after she lost control of it at low speed following a night out in Pontefract.

Floral tributes at the scene of the tragedy
Floral tributes at the scene of the tragedy

Sophie Bywater, 19, of Collingham, was around two-and-a-half times over the drink drive limit when her VW Polo careered off Skinner Lane at Pontefract just before 2.30am on Saturday May 31 2014, Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard.

The Polo mounted the pavement and went over a grass verge before crashing through a metal fence panel in front of the ditch at the edge of the Alkane energy park on the former Prince of Wales colliery site.

The car ended up on its roof in the water-filled ditch in a position where it would not have been possible to open the doors.

Firefighters cut Miss Bywater free from the Polo and she was taken to Pinderfields Hospital at Wakefield, where she was pronounced dead just after 4am that morning.

West Yorkshire Police collision investigator James Viney said Miss Bywater had failed to negotiate a right hand bend and had only been travelling at between 10mph and 20mph when the Polo struck the metal fence.

A post mortem revealed the cause of death was drowning.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff said: “The sad irony is it was just at that location there was this expanse of water was just behind the fence.”

Blood tests revealed Miss Bywater was around two-and-a-half times over the drink drive limit and had traces of cocaine in her system.

The inquest heard she may have been using her mobile phone when the accident happened.

Miss Bywater had given her friend Natalie Dimery a lift to Pontefract from her home in Knottingley and the two friends had planned to catch a taxi back to Knottingley.

Miss Dimery told police that Miss Bywater said she was going to the toilet at Big Fellas nightclub in the early hours, but didn’t return.

The inquest heard Miss Dimery told police in a statement: “In my opinion she was drunk and I don’t know why she would do such a thing. She had the option to get a taxi with me and stay at my house. She was young and full of life and I’m struggling to take in what has happened.”

Speaking to police collision investigator Mr Viney, Coroner Mr Hinchliff said: “Your view is that at the time of the impact the speed would have been relatively low.

“Had it not been for the ditch, let’s just say it was open land, although she might have been badly shaken by what had happened, I think she would probably have survived.”

The inquest was told calls had been made from Miss Bywater’s mobile phone to her friends at 02.26am and at 02.28am, at around the time the crash happened. The calls were not answered and had gone straight to answer phone.

Mr Hinchliff said: “This would possibly coincide with the time she was negotiating the bend and there is a view that she might have been preoccupied with the phone. It’s a possibility it could have been a distraction.”

The inquest heard Miss Bywater, formerly of Sherburn-in-Elmet near Selby, had studied at Sherburn High School and at York College.