A teenage driver who was high on laughing gas when he crashed his van into a car and killed two people has been sentenced to nine years and 10 months in prison.
William Thompson, 18, of Marroway, Weston Turville, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving on the A41 northbound, just after the Berkhamsted junction.
Luton Crown Court had heard how, just before 11.30pm on Sunday, May 7, 2017, a number of witnesses saw a Peugeot Expert Pro van being driven in a “stupidly fast and aggressive” manner.
Minutes later the van, with Thompson at the wheel, began to perform an overtake manoeuvre from the left lane to the right but in doing so struck the rear of a Nissan Micra.
Two of the passengers were Jean Malone, aged 76, and her 66-year-old friend Mary Davis, who were on their way home from running their regular bingo night.
The collision caused the Nissan to flip several times before it came to rest on the carriageway. Both women suffered fatal injuries, while the driver required hospital treatment.
Thompson, who was 17 at the time of the collision and had been driving for less than six months, suffered a cut to his arm.
He was escorted to hospital by officers for treatment before being arrested.
A number of canisters containing nitrous oxide – more commonly known as laughing gas – were found both in Thompson’s van and on the carriageway, along with a number of balloons.
When inhaled, nitrous oxide can cause feelings of euphoria, dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight, fits of laughter, sound distortions or even hallucinations.
Several witness accounts stated that Thompson drove past them with the van’s interior light on, meaning they were able to see him holding a balloon to his mouth and inhaling the gas as he passed them.
Although Thompson’s van was limited by law to travel at 60mph on dual carriageways, it is believed he was travelling at between 78mph and 91mph at the time of the collision.
Following a detailed investigation, officers concluded that there were no other contributory factors to the collision other than Thompson’s manner of driving and the fact he was inhaling nitrous oxide at the wheel.
The weather was fine and neither vehicle was found to have any mechanical defects.
Both women were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the collision.
Thompson was also banned from driving for six-and-a-half years.