Woman who killed friend in fireball coach crash while drink driving is jailed

·4-min read
The 'fireball' crash in Battersea (PA)
The 'fireball' crash in Battersea (PA)

A drunk driver who killed her friend in a head-on crash with a National Express coach when she fell asleep at the wheel has been jailed for three years.

Rajanee Brown, 26, was caught on camera ordering double and triple measures of rum at an Enfield nightclub in the hours before she drove across London with 24-year-old Aliyah Roach in the back seat.

Kingston crown court heard Brown had been awake for more than 20 hours when the hired VW Polo she was driving veered into the path of an oncoming coach at 4.20am, causing a fireball crash.

Ms Roach, the mother of a seven-year-old son and a primary school teaching assistant, was flung forward and died from injuries sustained in the crash on December 22, 2019.

Brown tried to place blame for the crash on the innocent coach driver, but Judge Stephen John said that, far from being culpable, his actions in slamming on the brakes had likely saved Brown’s own life.

Sentencing her to three years in prison, the judge said: “I am quite satisfied you had drunk significantly more than you claimed, and drink together with lack of sleep caused you to fall asleep.

“By your actions that day, you have deprived a loving family of their daughter. Aliyah has a seven-year-old son, and he will soon by spending his third Christmas without his mother.”

Police are at the scene of a crash in south west London (PA)
Police are at the scene of a crash in south west London (PA)

The crash happened close to Chelsea Bridge in Battersea, on a night when Brown had been the “designated driver” for her friend.

Just after 1am, Brown was seen on nightclub CCTV ordering two rum drinks at the bar in quick succession, the court heard.

She had to be helped by a friend to stand at times during the night, while Brown was also seen to be “visibly drowsy”.

She had been awake since 8am the previous morning, but still got behind the wheel of the car for a drive across London when she repeatedly broke the speed limit.

“You suddenly deviated into the opposing lane, causing a collision with a National Express coach”, said the judge, describing the fatal crash.

“Your friend Aliyah Roach was the only passenger in your car, sitting in the back but not wearing a seatbelt. She was flung forwards and sustained fatal injuries.”

The court heard Brown claimed to have tried to save her friend, but CCTV footage showed it was others who actually rushed to her aid.

“Calling out the word ‘baby’ doesn’t amount to giving assistance at the scene”, said the judge.

Some of the coach passengers

The burnt remains of the coach in Battersea (PA)
The burnt remains of the coach in Battersea (PA)

- as well as Brown herself - were injured in the collision, but Judge John hailed the coach driver’s quick decision to slam on the brakes for saving their lives.

Tests showed Brown was three times the drink drive limit at the time of the crash.

The victim’s father, Ian Roach, told Brown she had “caused immeasurable damage” to family and friends of Ms Roach, and left his grandson with “pain and loss for a lifetime”.

“You were prepared to choose self-preservation rather than showing any signs of humility”, he told her.

“Fortunately for you, you survived and we are now left with only memories, pictures, old camcorder recordings, old voicemails and texts.

“Nothing will bring Aliyah back. I can only encourage you to search within yourself to truly appreciate the damage you have done.”

Alicia Walters, Ms Roach’s mother, told the court she is willing to forgive Brown despite being in “unbearable pain” over the loss of her daughter.

“If you were such a good friend of Aliyah’s – as you claim – why drag her family through hell and back for nearly two years”, she said of Brown’s decision to fight the charge at trial.

“Did you ever think about the devastation and destruction you brought to my family?”

Brown, from Balham, denied but was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

After sentencing, the judge had to tell Brown to depart to the cells: “Would you go down?”, he said. “This is not a social occasion.”

Brown will be banned from driving for the next four-and-a-half years, and must take an extended test to regain her licence.

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