'Warrior princess' injured in A47 crash by 'lunatic' driver returns to Norfolk for Sealife experience
PUBLISHED: 13:30 23 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:41 23 October 2019
A six-year-old "warrior princess" has left Norfolk with wonderful memories despite being seriously injured in a crash caused by a "lunatic" driver.
Little Lucia Greathead was being driven to Hunstanton by her grandparents for a caravan holiday on May 29, and reached the Elm Hall roundabout on the A47 when they were hit head-on by Carlos Lester.
The 24-year-old had been banned from driving and was under investigation for other driving offences when he crossed into the wrong side of the road at speed to overtake a queue, smashing into the Volvo and caravan being driven by Lucia's grandparents.
Her grandmother had to be cut from the car and suffered a broken sternum and hearing loss, while Lucia, five at the time, had a "gaping wound" on her forehead.
Lester, of Sefton Avenue, Wisbech, was jailed for four years and banned from driving for seven, at Norwich Crown Court on Friday.
He pleaded guilty to causing serious injuries by dangerous driving; using a motor vehicle in a public place without third party insurance; and driving whilst disqualified.
Judge David Goodin called it a "lunatic manoeuvre" and said the impact of his driving had been "catastrophic".
But the day before the sentencing, Lucia, from Leicestershire, made the trip to Norfolk again.
Investigating officer PC Ben Hawkins and Hunstanton Sea Life Centre organised for her to have a day there as a keeper helping feed the turtles and learn about marine life.
It was a gesture which her family said made the court process "as painless as possible".
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Lucia's dad, Jon Greathead, said they had gone "above and beyond the call of duty" for them.
"Lucia is an incredibly tough little girl, and has always been that way - our warrior princess," he said. "She is incredibly resilient and has taken it mostly in her stride, which is obviously to her immense credit - we could not be more proud of her.
"What would have been a very tense afternoon thinking and worrying about the next day turned into a huge positive, with Lucia being allowed all sorts of behind the scenes access.
"She is an absolute animal lover too, so was thrilled to feed some of the more exotic inhabitants including the glorious Ernie the Turtle. The entire team at Sea Life could not have been better with Lucia or given her a more brilliant experience, and they were also incredibly kind to Albert, Lucia's young brother. We had the most wonderful afternoon."
He added the family would "definitely" be back to Norfolk despite the traumatic incident, and Merlin, which owns Sea Life, has offered the family a year pass at all its attractions.
"It is a truly lovely gesture," he said. "We will definitely be returning so we can see some of the injured seals - including Lucia's favourite Kylie - hopefully return to the wild."
While Lucia is now "fit and strong", Mr Greathead's mother has "aged ten years since the crash", he said.
"The impact seriously damaged her hearing, so much so she has to wear hearing aids now, and her memory has worsened significantly. We are a very tight family, her grandchildren were a source of much pride to her, but since the accident she has not been able to look after our youngest child. Lucia gets her teak-toughness from her, so we are hopeful she can start to operate as she used to."
He added he hoped Lester could mend his ways while in prison.
"Everyone makes mistakes, and Mr Lester made a huge error that day, but we are very aware that it could have been so much worse," he said. "He's young, and perhaps the experience in prison could change him, we hope so given his record of offences - we would certainly hate for another family to experience this.
"He apologised to my wife and I in court, and there is only so long you can be angry - it's a wasted emotion because eventually you have to move on."
Roads and armed policing team inspector Lisa Hooper said: "A disqualified driver should never be in charge of a vehicle. [Lester] showed complete disregard for anyone else on the road that day, causing serious injuries and permanent trauma to his victims. "Dangerous driving is a selfish and irresponsible act."