A young woman whose friend died after she pulled onto the M1 hard shoulder in a row over petrol money has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.
Christalla Amphlett, 22, stopped her Renault Twingo on the M1 when an argument broke out after a girls’ night out in Watford.
The car had been stationary, for a second time, when an Isuzu D-Max driven by Bradley Lane crashed into the back, St Albans Crown Court heard.
It happened on the northbound carriageway, just south of Junction 6 at Bricket Wood, in the early hours of November 25 in 2017.
Chloe Palmer, 19, who was sat at the back of the car on the driver’s side, suffered a severe brain injury and died days later.
Chloe Palmer was killed in the M1 crash. Photo: South Beds News Agency
Maisie O’Flynn, who was next to Chloe, received serious injuries but survived. Keziah Knight, who had been the front seat passenger, was out of the car and sitting on the metal safety barrier.
Driver Christalla Amphlett was treated for a bleed on the brain, a broken jaw and a broken neck.
Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver said it was likely Lane had fallen asleep at the wheel of his vehicle. He said he had early pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Christalla Amphlett, who was 19 at the time, pleaded not guilty to causing the death of Chloe by dangerous driving.
Christalla Amphlett has been cleared of causing her friend’s death. Photo: South Beds News Agency
She stood in the jury box with her hands crossed over her chest and cried as the jury found her not guilty.
Opening the case, Mr Cleaver said she had parked close to the inside lane without any illumination or hazard lights flashing. In addition, he said she had opened her door and was sitting with her legs outside the car, prompting one driver to sound his horn and others to swerve to avoid her car.
Christalla Amphlett has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving. Photo: South Beds News Agency
On the route, he said Christalla and Maisie started arguing about “something as trifling as petrol money.” He said she had agreed to make a detour to St Albans to drop off Maisie but was low on petrol. The passengers were drunk and were beginning to annoy the driver.
“Such was her irritation that she pulled over onto the hard shoulder of the M1 where she remained at a standstill for a few minutes.”
The journey resumed, but further along the motorway, the court was told the defendant again pulled over onto the hard shoulder and stopped the car after the argument about petrol money had started again. 17 minutes later, the crash happened.
In the witness box, Christall Amphlett of Symphony Close in Edgware told the jury she was a full-time support worker for 16- to 19-year-olds and at the time of the crash, she had been driving a private ambulance at the weekends. She had been unable to work for a year because of the injuries she received.
She had gone for lunch at TGI Fridays in Wembley before Maisie invited her and her friends to go Watford. After going to the Hide Out club in Watford town centre, she agreed to drive Maisie home to St Albans.
Asked by defence lawyer Richard Dawson what she could remember, she said: “I remember Maisie could not get home. I remember I had to drop her home.
“I just remember there was an argument. I just remember shouting. I had to stop. I did not feel it was safe to continue.”
Ms Palmer died several days after the crash. Photo: South Beds News Agency
She said she did not recall what the argument was about but she said she assumed it was about petrol money. “I did not have enough petrol to do other drop offs. I assume I was stressed out about that,” she said.
When she found out about Chloe’s death, she said she screamed.
Chloe Palmer, who lived with her family in Finchley, was removed from the rear of the Renault and taken to Watford General Hospital and then transferred to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.
She had sustained a pulmonary contusion, a complex pelvic fracture, fracture to the left leg, and an acute brain injury. She underwent intensive surgical intervention, but the injures to her brain were so severe that she died on December 2017.
Mr Cleaver had earlier told the jury: “These are unusual circumstances since, as you will have appreciated, at the time of the collision, her car was not moving.
“Nevertheless, the prosecution case is that she was driving; that driving was dangerous; and it was a contributory cause of the collision,” he said.
He went on: “In order for the prosecution to prove the case against her we need only prove that her dangerous driving was a cause of Chloe’s death. It is not necessary to prove that her dangerous driving was the only cause of the collision, nor even the principal or substantial cause.”
He went on: ”Miss Amphlett had created dangerous conditions by deliberately stopping the car where she did. Those conditions became increasingly dangerous the longer the car remained there.”
He said hard shoulders of motorways were only to be used in circumstances where it was necessary and unavoidable.
“It is to be used only in the case of genuine emergencies. This was not such a case,” he said.
The jury was told by PC Seb Jackson, who investigated the crash, that’s Rule 270 of the Highway Code states drivers must not stop on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or when told to do so by police or traffic officers in uniform.
At the end of the case, Judge Richard Foster thanked the seven women and five men on the jury saying: “It was a very difficult and challenging case.”