A YOUNG man has been convicted of causing the deaths of a mother-to-be and her unborn baby daughter by driving dangerously.
Calvin Craig Connah, 22, was driving his father’s BMW 318 Ti and decided to overtake another car at the end of a 70mph dual-carriageway, the prosecution said.
But he braked hard when the road became a single carriageway as it entered bends through a wooded area in a 50 mph zone.
He lost control of his car which crashed virtually head-on into a Ford Ka being driven by hospital worker Christina Barchetti.
Miss Barchetti, who was driving perfectly properly at 40 mph in the wet conditions on her own side of the road, suffered terrible injuries in the impact as her car was pushed back through a wall into woodland.
The 35-year-old died at Wrexham Maelor Hospital 1where she worked and her baby daughter Bella was stillborn during an emergency Caesarian operation.
During his three-day trial, Connah claimed he drove no faster than 60 mph along the dual-carriageway, denied overtaking another car at the last minute, and said he lost control on the bend at 50 mph because of the weather conditions. He had made an error of judgement, he claimed.
But witnesses told how he sped along the dual-carriageway at an excessive speed and an accident investigator estimated he must have been travelling at about 85 mph before the crash occurred.
Connah, of Ffordd Derw, Leeswood, near Mold, had admitted causing death by careless driving, but denied causing death by driving dangerously on the A541 at Pontblyddyn, on October 22 last year.
The jury at Mold Crown Court, however, returned their guilty verdict on the latter charge by a 10 to two majority.
Judge Philip Hughes refused a bail application and remanded Connah in custody and said he would be sentenced at a date to be fixed in a few weeks time.
But he warned him he would receive a substantial prison sentence.
The judge then thanked the jury of six men and six women for carrying out their duties in what he called a “most distressing” and “stressful” case.
One woman driver said she was overtaking on the dual-carriageway when Connah came up quickly behind in the BMW and she feared he would hit her.
She was shocked and upset and said that while she was going at 60 mph or 70 mph, he passed her as if she was standing still before she had time to fully return to the inside lane. She estimated his speed at that stage at about 90 mph.
The silver BMW overtook another car and the driver, who estimated his speed at about 80 mph, saw it swerve from side to side under heavy braking.
Connah lost control and his car crossed into the oncoming carriageway and crashed virtually head-on into the Ford Ka.
Miss Barchetti was trapped in the wreckage of her car and was comforted by other road users until emergency services arrived.
She was released and rushed to hospital by ambulance but later died.
John Philpotts, prosecuting, told the jury it was an exciting time for Miss Barchetti because she and partner Graham Clarke were expecting their first child in November.
“But that happy day never came because at 8.45pm that night she was pronounced dead at Wrexham Mealor Hospital,” he said.
Miss Barchetti suffered abdominal trauma which caused her pregnant uterus to rupture. She died of shock and haemorrhage and her baby was stillborn as a result of blunt trauma and a lack of oxygen.
The crash was investigated by forensic accident investigator Colin Dobbins who, said Mr Philpotts, came to the conclusion the accident had been avoidable.
The road was not defective, and the bend could have been negotiated at a speed significantly higher than the maximum speed limit, at about 85 mph.
It was his view that Connah lost control when braking while negotiating the bend at the end of the dual-carriageway.
Mr Philpotts said it was the prosecution case that the reason he braked as late as he did was that he was determined to pass the car in front before the dual-carriageway ended. He had driven at “a dangerously excessive speed” on a road he knew had been affected by rain, he said.
l Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Christine Barchetti and her unborn daughter Bella Clarke at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Wrexham.
The funeral service was described as a celebration of life for Miss Barchetti and Bella, with the cathedral packed as countless family, friends and work colleagues gathered to pay their last respects.
Floral tributes included one spelling out the name ‘Chrissy’, by which Miss Barchetti was commonly known.
Following the funeral, Miss Barchetti was buried at Wrexham Cemetery, Ruabon Road.
Miss Barchetti leaves several close family members, including parents Raffaele and Carla, sister Lisa and brother Martin and partner Graham Clarke.
Donations in Miss Barchetti’s memory were split between the labour ward at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, where she worked in the medical engineering department, and the paramedics’ service.