A car crash which injured children and adults outside a primary school was described as “every parent’s worst nightmare” by a judge as he sentenced a mother for careless driving.
Dolly Rincon-Aguilar was on the school run when a group of pupils and parents who were standing near the gates of Beatrix Potter Primary School in Openview, Earlsfield, were hit by the Toyota Rav4 she was driving.
A jury at Kingston Crown Court took three hours and 26 minutes to find the 39-year-old guilty of careless driving and to reject an alternative charge of eight counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Judge John Lodge described the crash, at just after 3pm on September 8 2020, as a “traumatic tragedy” that caused “pain and suffering” to the injured, but said it had not been a “deliberate act”.
A seven-year-old boy who had his back to the car was knocked into the air, while others as young as six were trapped under the vehicle, the court had previously heard.
The judge said a fine “may seem inadequate to those who are suffering” as he ordered Rincon-Aguilar, of Wandsworth, to pay a £3,000 fine and £930 costs, and have six penalty points added to her licence.
The green vehicle had mounted the pavement, hit a tree and then a wall before accelerating to the school entrance where the group of parents and children were standing.
The judge told the mother-of-two: “Anyone who has been in this court throughout the course of this trial cannot fail to consider the circumstances on 8 September 2020 to be probably every parent’s worst nightmare, and every parent in this case includes you .
“A school should be safe, and school gates are designed to be safe. In this particular case a metal barrier designed to protect schoolchildren as they left school in fact in this case increased the risk to them.”
He added: “No-one is in dispute that this was a deliberate act on your part, albeit a mistake with tragic consequences.”
Eleven people, including seven children, were treated at the scene by medics. Four adults and five children were taken to hospital, while two children were discharged.
Two victims had fractures to the face and skull, with one requiring emergency treatment to remove a blood clot.
Some of the children were left with serious fractures to the leg, arm and eye socket, the court had heard.
Jurors were told that Rincon-Aguilar pressed the 4×4’s accelerator instead of the brake as she tried to stop the car when it plowed forward.
Giving evidence on Wednesday, Rincon-Aguilar became tearful as she apologized to the victims and their families.
Asked by defense barrister Ian Henderson QC how the incident had affected her, she said: “I think just my heart is broken in two.
“I just wish that I could take away all the pain and all the frustration.”
She added: “I want to be able to tell them I’m so sorry because it is the only thing I want to say to them”, before naming all those who were injured.
“A school should feel safe,” she said. “It is just so upsetting.”
The jury heard that Rincon-Aguilar, who got her UK driving license for an automatic vehicle in 2019, had not been drinking or taking drugs and had no health issues or problems at home.
She also confirmed there were no obstructions due to the weather, no distractions like the radio playing, and her mobile phone was in her pocket, while the vehicle had an MoT, tax and insurance.
“When I drive to the school, I always take my time because there are children around and it can be difficult to see them,” she said.
“I took a few minutes to take to the road, making sure to look in the mirrors.
“I just put the car in drive and just indicated, checked mirrors, checked mirrors again and indicated, and just tried to take the road.
“I did press the accelerator gently and the next thing the car just went through the road and it was just so fast and just hit the tree.
“It finished so fast. We were heading towards the main gate, and I thought, I don’t know, ‘Just stop’.
“When the car wasn’t stopping I just thought ‘handbrake, handbrake’.”
Asked about the police’s conclusion that there was “pedal misapplication” – that she is likely to have pressed the accelerator rather than the brake – she said: “I think that is all right.”
Rincon-Aguilar’s close friend, Karen Duque, described her as “just the most kind and most generous and most selfless person I have ever met”, while her father-in-law, Neil Livingston, said she is an “honest, forthright, rather shy” person.
The court earlier heard from Metropolitan Police forensic collision investigator Pc Sean Wakeman, who said there was “unintended acceleration due to a misapplication of the accelerator pedal”.
He said: “Had she applied sufficient pressure to the brake pedal, the Toyota would have come to a stop and this may have avoided any casualties.”
The court heard that the brakes were working “sufficiently” but Rincon-Aguilar may have mistakenly pressed the accelerator.