Revealed: The devastation caused when driver smashed his car into a York house

Mr Garnett was trapped under rubble – then the car caught fire
30 Apr 2018 @ 3.25 pm
| Crime, News

This was the terrifying scene after a car careered off the road and into a York house last September.

The picture, published for the first time today, shows the devastation caused when James Andrew Sparham crashed his high-performance Volkswagen Golf R into front room of a family home on Morehall Close, Rawcliffe.

It left one of the residents with life-changing injuries. Today (Monday, April 30) Sparham was jailed for five years by a judge at York Crown Court.

One of the investigating police officers said his actions “have had a catastrophic impact on innocent people”.

Witnesses heard screeching

James Andrew Sparham

The court heard that Sparham, 29, a labourer of Geldof Road, Huntington, was driving on Morehall Close in the early hours of September 3 last year.

Witnesses heard “screeching” and saw a white Volkswagen being driven in a “dangerous” manner immediately before the crash.

When it smashed into the house the car burst into flames.

Police, firefighters and ambulance crews arrived to find a hole in the house and Sparham’s Golf ablaze in the living room, next to the sofa.

The car smashed through the outer wall into the front room

Police at the scene of the crash. Photograph: Danny Lawson/ PA Wire

The scene on Morehall Close the morning after the crash. Photograph: David Dunning / Minster FM

The three people in the house at the time, including a child, managed to escape with help of neighbours and local residents.

One of them, a man in his 50s who was watching TV in the front room, suffered serious life-changing injuries and had to endure a long stay in hospital.

Sparham’s two passengers – a woman in her 30s and a man in his 20s – also sustained broken bones, lacerations and fractures.

The sentence

Photograph: Danny Lawson/ PA Wire

James Andrew Sparham pleaded guilty to three cases of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and criminal damage at the hearing in York Crown Court.
He was

  • sent to prison for five years
  • banned from driving for seven-and-a-half years
  • and he will have to sit an extended driving test before he is allowed back on the roads.

No defects with the car

Painstaking forensic investigation led to the conviction

North Yorkshire Police’s Major Collision Investigation Team launched an investigation and carried out extensive forensic tests to determine what had happened.

Experts were unable to find any evidence that Sparham had tried to avoid a collision or any defects with the vehicle.

They also recreated the incident in a controlled environment, using a similar car, and determined that even with the steering at full lock, the car should not have lost control.

During police interviews, Sparham largely made no comment. However, he pleaded guilty to three counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and criminal damage at court.

‘Lives were changed forever’ – police

The car embedded in the house on Morehall Close. Photograph: Danny Lawson/ PA Wire

The choices Sparham made that night have had a catastrophic impact on innocent people.

The damage he did was not just to a family’s home, but also to their health and their wellbeing – damage which continues to this day. Lives have been changed forever.

The sad thing is, our investigation has shown that this incident was absolutely avoidable. It didn’t have to happen. It was an act of stupidity that had dire consequences.

The advanced techniques we used to investigate cases such as this allow us to piece together an incredibly detailed picture of what happened, and why it happened.

So even without the driver’s full co-operation, we’re able to build a case that is strong enough to convict people of serious driving offences.

This was a long and complex investigation, so I’m relieved that Sparham is not only off our roads, but also has plenty of time to reflect on his actions while serving his custodial sentence.”

I would like to thank the local and wider community for answering our witness appeals and providing a valuable picture of the events leading up to the incident.

– Detective Sergeant Jeremy Bartley of the Major Collision Investigation Team
Leader of the investigation