A cyclist who lost a leg and was nearly killed when she was hit by a skip lorry today told how she had forgiven the driver, saying: “I don’t think it’s healthy to hate.”
Victoria Lebrec, 25, only survived the morning rush-hour crash in Clerkenwell a year ago today [Dec 8] because doctors from London’s Air Ambulance successfully performed a procedure at the roadside for the second time ever to stop her bleeding to death.
Driver Paul-Ioan Mihacea, 30, was fined £750 and given five penalty points after pleading guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court to careless driving last Friday. He had initially been charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving but the charge was reduced as part of a plea bargain.
Ms Lebrec, above, said she was “really happy with the outcome” as the guilty plea paves the way for a compensation pay-out from Aviva, insurers of the Hackney-based haulage firm McGrath, to cover her rehabilitation and future needs.
She hugged Mihacea, a Romanian living in West Ham, after the case and told the Standard: “I completely forgive him for what he did. He just made a mistake. He was so sorry. He came up to me afterwards and said: ‘If there’s anything you need, let me know.’ He was racked with guilt and remorse.
“Compared to the injuries I suffered, [the £750 fine] doesn’t seem a lot. It was just a momentary lapse of judgement which caused it. The police did a lot of forensic tests on the vehicle and they could see that I could be seen for 14 seconds leading up to the crash.”
The court was told the Mihacea was on a hands-free phone within a minute of the crash. It was unknown whether he was still on the call at the moment of collision.
Ms Lebrec, who had been cycling to work at Clinic advertising agency in Farringdon, underwent 13 operations and had her left leg amputated. She said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to hate. He obviously feels very bad about the whole thing. We had a really long hug, which was really emotional.”
The collision happened as Mihacea’s lorry turned left at the junction of Clerkenwell Road and St John Street. The vehicle had sensors but these failed to detect the presence of Ms Lebrec because he delayed using his indicators.
Ian Bridge, defending, said: “There have been a number of utterly tragic cases recently of which this is just one. Mihacea acknowledges that he had an opportunity to see Miss Lebrec and he admits that he did not.”
Judge David Richardson said: “The fact is that on our roads where cyclists and heavy duty vehicles mingle this sort of thing can happen within seconds. No sentence that I pass can ever restore what Miss Lebrec has lost as a result of this incident.” He told the driver: “There is no explanation for your not seeing her at that moment.”
Judge Richardson’s sentencing took into account the fact that Mihacea would have been unable to secure insurance for future HGV work if he had received six penalty points on his licence.
See here for my story about Victoria’s joy about being able to walk again and return to work