A MAN has been jailed after he pleaded guilty to causing the drunken car smash that killed his best friend.
Nathan Cope, 25, was more than twice the legal alcohol limit when the Nissan Micra he was driving from Holmfirth swerved off the notorious A642 Wakefield Road, killing his passenger Paul Fleming.
Now Cope has been locked up for three years.
Bradford Crown Court heard the horrific crash at 9.30pm on April 18 last year saw the small car veer across the carriageway near the National Mining Museum, over a ditch and through a wall before hitting a tree.
Mr Fleming, 34, died at the scene from his injuries.
A blood test revealed Cope had 185mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system at the time of the collision.
The legal limit is 80mg.
Cope, of Pump Lane, Dewsbury, had been asked to drive the car by Mr Fleming because he himself did not want to be caught drink driving.
But, Cope, who walked away from the smash with minor injuries, did not have insurance or a driving licence and had also been drinking all day as he celebrated his father’s wedding.
After the fatal smash witnesses said Cope fled the scene but quickly returned to check on his mate.
After being arrested he admitted he had “drunk loads” and had been stupid.
Bradford Crown Court heard how Cope, himself a father, had shown nothing but remorse for the tragedy and had remained on speaking terms with the deceased’s family.
He had recently taken Mr Fleming's 13-year-old daughter to see her father’s grave as the duo marked the first anniversary of his death together.
Speaking in mitigation, Andrew Dallas QC, said speed had not been a factor in the smash and it was thought Cope had clipped a kerb and then lost control of the vehicle.
He said: “The defendant on this terrible night was lucky. Paul Fleming, his closest and best friend, was not.
“Because of his decision to drive that night he now must go to prison.
“He has terrible remorse and it has plagued him ever since. He has been unable to work but he’s done his best to face up to it.
“His thoughts remain with Paul’s family.
“The result of this is he won’t be able to see his own children but he knows they’re in a much better position than Paul’s.”
Mr Dallas said the duo had met eight years ago and became the very closest of friends, seeing each other on a daily basis.
He said they had been through thick and thin together and Mr Fleming had dated Cope’s sister.
On the fatal day Cope had been at a lunchtime wedding of his father and had already used taxis to travel from Dewsbury to Lepton.
He had later met with Mr Fleming back in Dewsbury and had then gone to his new step-mother’s pub in Holmfirth.
It was then that he was talked into driving Mr Fleming’s car back to Dewsbury. Eyewitnesses said the Nissan Micra was doing about 40mph on the 50mph limit road, but said it was swerving about as it drove eastbound towards Wakefield.
Police accident investigators discovered a rear tyre had been under-inflated due to a nail and that Mr Fleming was not wearing a seatbelt, but said neither were a factor in the death.
Judge Durham Hall said it was clear that Cope “could care less” and was not a “tearaway” and was a hard-working and loyal friend.
He said: “It is an appalling misfortune the car did not rest uneventfully in a field. It hit a tree. You were not injured, the unfortunate victim, another appalling tragedy, was killed outright.
“You’ve shown consistent concern and respect for your friend, his family and his child. There doesn’t seem to be any deep-seated anger against you, more sorrow. Nothing I can do will bring Paul Fleming back, but I suspect if he could have a say he would ask that the court showed you mercy.”
Cope sat motionless as Mr Durham Hall sentenced him to three years imprisonment, the minimum sentence for the offence. He was also handed a three-year driving ban.