The parents of a young man killed by a drunk driver who drank lager while driving his car before crashing head-on into a wall have opened up about their grief at losing their sons and the anger they feel about a justice system that has failed them. On the evening of December 4, 2020, Lewis Morgan was out with his friends in a pub in Carmarthenshire. It was a work party.
He was drinking and having fun. It was a few weeks before Christmas and seemed like a typical Friday night outside of the coronavirus restrictions that had by then become the norm over the previous eight months.
Lewis did not return home that evening. Instead, he was picked up by his brother, Lloyd, and they returned home. Another young man present at the party was driving, however. He had consumed five or six pints of cider and then got into his car. He drove to Lewis’ house in Carmarthen, drank some more, then got back in his car. He then stopped to buy more alcohol at a local store and then got back into his car. He drank lager from a bottle as he drove and reached speeds of 100mph as he headed east towards Ammanford.
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At around 8.45pm it finally lost control and crashed into a wall on the side of Penygroes Road in the village of Blaenau. He was taken to hospital. Lewis, however, was not. He suffered severe head trauma and could not be revived. He died at the scene. He was 20 years old.
At this point, his loving family was still unaware of the horror that had just happened. For them, at this point, it was just a normal Friday night. They had no idea of the pain that was about to enter their lives – a pain that still hurts as much today as it did when it was inflicted by a policeman at the door of ‘entrance.
“There was a knock on the door around 11 p.m. that night,” Lewis’ mother Angharad recalled. “I just thought it was Lewis coming home. Lloyd was downstairs. He opened the door and came to tell me that there was someone here to see me. I saw two policemen standing at the door. I just knew, I knew right away, and then my world stopped.
As Lewis’s parents are divorced, his father Martin did not know at this point what had happened. His son Lloyd called him and asked him to come home. The rest is a bit of a blur – the one that saw Martin drive to the scene of the fatal crash that killed Lewis hours before.
“I didn’t know what happened, but when I got home I saw the police car outside,” Martin said. “They told me and I couldn’t believe it. What I wanted to do was tell my daughter in person, so I drove to Ammanford where she was living at the time.
“As I was driving there I passed police officers coming the other way. I realized that I was actually heading towards where the accident happened, where Lewis died. I was in a daze. I arrived at my daughter’s house at the end and we were all together that night.
The family’s nightmare was just beginning. They had yet to travel to Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen to formally identify Lewis’ body – a process totally unimaginable for anyone lucky enough to never have experienced it.
“It was really, really tough,” Martin said. “We were petrified before we saw it because we didn’t know what it would look like after the crash. But I felt a little better after seeing him lying there. He just looked like he was sleeping. »
When Lewis’s funeral took place, Covid restrictions meant it couldn’t be the huge, crowded celebration of life it would have been under normal circumstances. Her parents had to restrict numbers – “we had to choose who came to the funeral and who didn’t” – which Martin described as “very unfair” given the overwhelming support and love shown to the family during the worst period of their life. .
Meanwhile, the driver of the car involved in the accident, Meirion Roberts of Ammanford, who described himself in court as a colleague and friend of Lewis, had been arrested and charged with causing death by dangerous driving. He pleaded not guilty despite the evidence against him which included breathalyzer readings, testimonies about his driving, testimonies about his drinking prior to the accident and a Snapchat video which actually showed him drinking while drinking. driving and exceeding the speed limit in an alcohol-fueled state of abandon.
“He was supposed to be a co-worker,” Martin said. “Knowing what he did – and we’ve all seen the evidence – I don’t think he needed to go through all that (the court case). If it was the other way around, I would have told Lewis to admit what happened and plead guilty. It really dragged things out for us as a family because it was upsetting to hear all the details in court. What we went through is just awful.
Roberts, 26, was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. However, he will only serve half of that in custody before being released on license. For Martin and his family, their grief will last as long as they live.
“I just wanted justice for Lewis,” he said. “I wanted [Roberts] being found guilty and I didn’t really care about the sentence. But when you hear the judge say seven and a half but he might be out in half that time, I thought that was a complete joke.
“He will be away and he will still be able to live his life with his children and his family. He was the driver, he was the one who controlled the car, he was the one who had his foot on the pedal. If someone walked into a post office with a gun or a knife, they would automatically get 10 years. The sentences in this country must be reviewed, certainly. Current guidelines need to be reviewed – they are outdated. It’s scandalous.”
Despite Lewis’s death, and despite the horror inflicted on his family and friends, it doesn’t seem to have shaken some people’s views on drunk driving. High profile cases and even high profile deaths have occurred since Lewis died that night in Carmarthenshire and Martin is unconvinced the message has gotten to people – even though they know the pain that can ensue of such irresponsibility.
“I don’t think people who drink and drive realize that,” he said. “Once they’ve had a drink or whatever, they don’t care. If they are in this state, they don’t think about the repercussions, about what can happen. I think if there were tougher penalties for drunk drivers, people would think twice about what they’re doing. But people know they may be out in three or four years. If there was a 25 year sentence, they would think twice.
There was a change in the law last week that increased the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by reckless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from 14 years to life . However, it is up to individual judges to decide how long a drunk driver should be sentenced and the maximum sentence is only a maximum and not the recommended sentence. When Lewis’s case was submitted to the Department of Justice, a spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Lewis Morgan. Dangerous drivers ruin lives and although independent judges decide sentences, our new laws will increase the maximum penalty for causing death to life.
In Carmarthen Cemetery, on the outskirts of the town centre, there is now a bench engraved with the words: “In memory of Lewis Morgan, 2000-2020. Donated by friends and family x. It gives Lewis’s loved ones a place to sit and think when they visit his grave. It is also a permanent reminder of his popularity as the bench was funded with money raised from a commemorative rugby match and a raffle organized by his relatives.
“As a family, we really appreciate the help and support we’ve received from everyone, even strangers,” Martin said. “The family liaison who dealt with us and the police officers involved were absolutely wonderful, as was the lawyer in court and the funeral director who were so helpful to us. Everyone has been fantastic.
“Lewis is such a great loss to all of us. Many people miss him every day. I think one day he would have made a great father and a great husband. He was brilliant in his work as a plasterer and he was proud of it and we are so proud of him. It’s a pleasure to know he was a nice kid and it’s a blessing that so many people care about him and still do.