THE DEVASTATED families of those who died in an horrific Leamington car crash have spoken of their heartbreak.
Jamie Riddick, of Park Piece, Kineton, was jailed for nine years after the car he was driving crashed on Radford Road in the early hours of June 20 – causing the deaths of Emily Jennings, Nathan Rhodes, and Ryan Case.
Speaking about his loss, Nathan’s dad, Paul Rhodes, said: “On the day Nathan was killed, my life changed forever. The heavy heart, the sadness, the tears – it never goes away. It is the worst nightmare a parent can go through.
“Nathan will live on in my heart forever and I will never forget my beautiful boy taken from us at such a young age.”
Mr Rhodes’ wife and Nathan’s stepmum, Lisa, recalled countless hours spent going down the slides at Newbold Comyn with Nathan and his younger brother, Simon.
She added: “How do we go through the motions of a normal life when we have a huge black hole inside us?
“In the first 48 hours I thought I was having a heart attack. Now I know I am not. It is the weight of grief crushing me for the rest of my life. Bereavement is a life sentence.”
Describing the 23-year-old as the ‘life and soul of any party’, Nathan’s mum Barbara Hatcher, paid tribute to a fun-loving, sports mad, and popular young man.
She said: “Putting my eldest son in the ground was the most painful thing I have ever had to do. Life now is empty and, if not for the support of my family and friends, unbearable.
“Forever I will ask myself why Nathan? Why us? Why did he get in the car? Why did he not call another taxi? I feel like I am in a dark pit and there is no way out.”
Beautician Emily lived in Warwick and was mother to a nine-year-old daughter Phoebe.
Speaking about her own 27 year-old daughter, Gillian Jennings said: “Emily was a truly beautiful girl, not only to look at, but inside too.
“To promise I would always care for her and to be taken so tragically, is the most traumatic experience I have ever faced.
“My daughter’s death has completely destroyed me. Emily was so precious and will always be in my heart and soul, never forgotten.”
Father-of-two Ryan from Stockton, was well-known across the Midlands as a keen fisherman. His mother, Hazel spoke of the 25-year-old’s love and devotion to his daughters, Molly and Leah.
She said: “Ryan has lost the chance of living life with his family. He will never have his happy ever after and neither will we.”
Dad Shaun paid tribute to a bright, funny, independent and hard-working young man.
He said: “No parent ever imagines burying their child, and having to do so in such horrific circumstances, makes it even more unimaginable.
“Ryan had just turned a corner and was determined to build a good life for himself and his children.
“Not only was his death tragic but the lack of remorse shown by the driver responsible is both insulting and unforgivable.
“We have been handed the real life sentence – life without any chance of parole or having our sentence reduced for good behaviour.
“I have never felt pain like it. There will always be a hole in our hearts that cannot be filled. This nightmare is never going to end – it is our new reality.”
IN ADDITION to the jail sentence, Riddick was given a 12 year driving ban after he was found to have no MOT, no insurance, and only a provisional licence.
The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts of dangerous driving at Coventry Crown Court and was said to be almost twice the legal alcohol limit when the Citroen Saxo he was driving crashed into a tree and then a wall on the Radford Road.
The court heard how Riddick had been drinking vodka with his girlfriend and was involved in a jealous row, which saw him punch her – leaving her with a black eye.
He then left home and drove into Leamington where he went into a nightclub where Emily Jennings, Nathan Rhodes and Ryan Case were and continued to drink beer.
And after the trio struggled to get a taxi at the end of the night out, Riddick offered the friends a lift back to Southam.
But the court was told how the car – bought as an insurance write-off for £375 – was said to be almost unroadworthy with three under-inflated tyres, worn brakes and an insecure battery.
That, coupled with Riddick’s lack of driving experience and wet road conditions, meant it careered off the road – causing the deaths of the three back seat passengers.
Riddick and a front seat passenger, 21-year-old Charlie Smith, survived.
Speaking after the hearing, Rebecca Hearsey, of lawyers Irwin Mitchell, said: “The families are heartbroken and are still trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones but feel justice has been done.
“They now ask for privacy as they try to begin to move on with their lives.”