Widow recalls ‘terrifying silence’ from wife after fatal head-on A141 crash

A heartbreaking victim statement from the wife of a woman killed when a drink-driver caused a head-on crash was read out at Cambridge Crown Court today (September 3).

“I found myself upside down, struggling to breathe in the dark, cold and wet, my foot by my knee, my leg all floppy, hearing my dog crying and the terrifying silence from my wife.”

Debbie Rivers recalls how her spouse Stephanie had been driving along the A141 near Chatteris at around 10pm on the fateful night of August 20 last year when out of the darkness, drink-driver Liam Mansfield crashed into them head-on.

Read more: Shocking number of serious and fatal crashes involving drugs in Cambridgeshire prompts campaign

He had been at a pub in Pidley a couple of miles down the road and, despite the offer of a lift home, decided to get behind the wheel of his BMW.

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The decision cost Stephanie, 33, her life and has left Debbie a shell of the person she was, physically patched together with rods and bolts and mentally damaged.

Mansfield, 27, of Bottels Road, Warboys, was sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court today (September 3) where he was handed six years in prison and disqualified from driving for eight years.

He had admitted causing death by dangerous driving, driving while uninsured, and possessing a class B drug, after cannabis was found in his glove compartment.

His roadside breath test had revealed an alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

Debbie said she did not hate Liam but wanted him to realise the consequences of his actions.

She said: “I do not want this statement to be full of hate.

“Hate is a wasteful emotion, and I do not want hate to destroy me more than I am already.

“Rebuilding your life alone takes so much effort, I do not have room in my life to hate.

“I do not hate you Liam. I hope you listen to my words and can in some small way understand how you, who was nothing to me, has changed my life more powerfully, completely, and irrevocably than any other person before you and God willing after you.”

She added: “I found out while I was in hospital that Steph, my best friend, my wife was gone forever.

“In that car, I really believed she was just taking longer to wake up despite how much and how hard I tried to wake her with what little strength I had. Imagine lying immobile, injured, in pain, confused, and then hear those words.

“How do you come to terms with the fact this is now your reality, your life has been stolen from you and what was given back was not what you wanted; having to learn to walk, feed yourself, wash yourself, and toilet yourself again?”

The couple both worked as carers and despite the toll of the accident Debbie has returned to work through “sheer determination” albeit with amended duties.

She explained: “I can no longer perform the physical side of my role due to my arm and leg being held together with rods and bolts. Not to mention the embarrassment of my bowel incontinence and frequent urgency,” she explained.

The crash, understandably, has taken a mental toll too.

Debbie added: “Where I was once a confident driver, I now question everything, every move other vehicles make. I am afraid it will happen again.

“It does not matter how safe our roads are, how much money is spent and what measures are put into place.

“My journey is now carrying on, alone, a widow, not yet a mother, making room every day for the pain, uncertainty, fear, and loss.”

In a tribute at the time, Stephanie’s mother Patricia Rivers and sister Tracy Leaper said: “Steph was a kind, caring, beautiful, animal-loving daughter, wife, sister and auntie. She will be forever loved and truly missed by all who were lucky enough to have known her.”

Cambridgeshire Police are urging members of the public to report drink drivers.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dollard, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “This is another heartbreaking case which beggars belief.

“Mrs Rivers would still be alive had Mansfield not decided to get behind the wheel after drinking and perform the overtake that he did.

“His driving was simply not good enough; he knew he had consumed alcohol but selfishly had no regard for the safety of others.

“Drink driving is illegal, dangerous, and truly ruins lives. People can help us make the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone by confidentially reporting others they suspect of driving while under the influence.”

The force operates a dedicated, confidential hotline for members of the public to report drink or drug driving. The hotline: 0800 032 0845 is available 24/7, and gives people the chance to supply the police with information to help reduce the number of drink or drug drivers on the county’s roads.

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