Son found out mum had been killed by dangerous driver during cycling event they were both competing in

The daughter of a triathlete who was killed by a dangerous driver while taking part in a time trial event has described the awful moment she learned her mother had died. The rider was thrown from her bike after being struck from behind by a car.

Rebecca Comins, 52, was hit by a Vauxhall Movano van driven by Vasile Barbu on the A40 near Raglan, in Monmouthshire, on June 2, 2022. She died at the scene after suffering blunt chest injuries.

A trial at Cardiff Crown Court previously heard Barbu, 49, of Abergavenny, denied causing death by dangerous driving, but pleaded guilty to causing death due to careless driving. He was found guilty of the former charge.

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Mrs Comins and the defendant were travelling in the eastbound carriageway at the time of the collision. The athlete was taking part in a time trial event run by Monmouthshire Wheelers, along with other cyclists.

The stretch of the A40 on which the collision occurred was straight. A subsequent investigation conducted by a forensic collision investigator concluded Mrs Comins would have been visible for at least 500 metres prior to impact. The cyclist was half a metre from the edge of the road, and the outside lane was clear to allow for the defendant to pass her without issue, the court heard.

Vasile Barbu showed WalesOnline his kitchen, which he says is much-improved since the damning food hygiene inspection
Vasile Barbu -Credit:WalesOnline/Rob Browne

Driver Andrew Allman saw the collision in his rear view mirror having passed Mrs Comins. He said he saw Barbu hit Mrs Comin's bike, which caused her to be thrown off to the left onto the grass verge. The driver then safely pulled over before calling 999. Attempts were made by passersby to help Mrs Comins until the arrival of the emergency services but despite their best efforts the cyclist died at the scene as a result of her injuries. Barbu, who remained at the roadside, spoke to police and appeared upset. He tested negative for alcohol and drugs, and his eyesight was found to be fine.

Speaking at the defendant's sentencing hearing on Friday, Mrs Comins daughter Amelia Comins said she was at university in Cambridge when she was told of her mother's death. She said: "I had a call from dad. I tried to stay calm, I thought the worst case scenario would be mum was badly injured and I could get the next train to see her... Instead he picked up the phone and all he could get out was "Mils, Mils, mum has been killed..

"At that point my world fell apart, I have never felt pain like it. I felt like I had been struck by lightning.... I remember screaming 'It can't be true, it can't be true, there's no way this is happening'."

Amelia Comins said "everything changed" for her, with the realisation she would never see her mum again, she wouldn't be able to go to her wedding or meet her future children. She added: "Before mum died, I had never experienced anxiety, I am scared of losing other family and friends...

"I miss our chats and laughs, her advice and support. Everyone says I look and sound like her. I miss the day to day things like sitting at the table, having a cup of tea and sharing a bag of chocolate buttons, going to the shops or having our hair done."

Mrs Comins' son George was also competing in the time trial event with his mother, and had competed alongside her in triathlon events representing Great Britain at the World and European Championships. He said: "At the hospital I was told mum had been killed and I didn't know what to do. My father arrived and I couldn't tell him. Milly was screaming on the other end of the phone, the worst part of it all...

"It was hard to interact with others, there were no words and we were unsure how others would react. I couldn't tell anyone about it initially without breaking down... It didn't feel right about mum and felt too soon. Everything changed in that minute...

"Mum would have been around to experience the rest of our lives after working so hard to make us the best people we could be. She won't be around to see our weddings or grandchildren, who will never have the chance to meet or learn from her. Events like birthdays and Christmas are difficult for us, there will always be a part of us missing, it won't be the same without her... I will never have her there watching me compete and I'll never be able to watch her compete again. We will never be able to compete together again, something we loved to do. I have only just returned to the sport with a big part missing and I'll never take part in an open road triathlon again."

Mrs Comins' husband Stephen said he had met his wife in 1996, fell in love with her and went on to have three children. He said he would never forget the look on his son's face when he was told Mrs Comins had died and the sound of his daughter screaming and crying on the phone would "haunt him forever".

He said: "Every event is now different, a massive part of our lives is missing. Dealing with a big loss is hard and gets worse as time goes on. The pain and heartache never goes away. The hardest part is always returning to an empty house, I miss her so much. My wife was incredibly supportive of everything our children did... At home nothing has changed, her dressing table, perfume and clothes are still there as she left it, frozen in time."

In mitigation, the defendant's barrister Tim Pole publicly apologised on behalf of his client, for the distress and grief his actions have caused. He added: "The thoughts of Vasile Barbu remain with the family and loved ones of Rebecca Comins and nothing I say in completing my duty in mitigation is intended to detract from that." He referred to the defendant's character, and the fact he is a husband and father of two children, who will suffer as a result of their father being sent to prison. Mr Pole said Barbu was a man who "always sought to assist other and support his community", and was "genuinely remorseful" for the loss he caused.

Addressing Mrs Comins' family, Judge Shoman Khan said: "I recognise your lives have been shattered and no sentence I can pass can even begin to remediate your grief, pain and sense of loss. This collision should not have happened. Mrs Comins was in no way to blame, she did nothing wrong."

Barbu was sentenced to four years imprisonment, of which he will serve half in custody before he is released to serve the remainder on licence. The defendant was also disqualified from driving for a total of four years.

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