Baby joy for mum after two children killed in M4 crash

Jayden-Lee and his sister Gracie-Ann Lucas
An online appeal helped raise more than £17,000 to pay for the funerals of Gracie-Ann Lucas and her brother Jayden-Lee

A grieving mum whose two children were killed in a motorway crash by a drink and drug driver has said her new child is a "gift from the kids".

Gracie-Ann Lucas, four, and Jayden-Lee, three, died after the family car was hit on the hard shoulder of the M4 by a van driven by Martin Newman.

Mum Rhiannon has said seven-month-old Summer-Gracie had helped the family rebuild their lives after the crash.

"She has helped me emotionally, she is a gift from them," said Rhiannon.

Summer-Gracie, named after her late older sister, was due on what would have been Gracie-Ann's sixth birthday, but arrived early on 30 March, weighing 6lb (2.7kg).

"She looks like her brother and sister," Rhiannon, 27, told the BBC.

"She's always smiling and a good baby, like the other two. She'll never take the place of Gracie and Jayden. I see her as a gift from them.

"When she's in her walker, she looks up at pictures of them on the wall.

"Sometimes she stares at their pictures and laughs so I say 'that's your sister, who you're named after - and the little boy next to her is your big brother'."

"We tell Summer what we used to do with them and how good they were."

Gracie and Jayden were going with their mum and stepdad Adam Saunders from a Disney Frozen-themed party in their hometown of Tredegar in Blaenau Gwent to the Techniquest science centre in Cardiff when the crash happened on the M4 in February last year.

Newman had been taking cocaine and drinking vodka and 10 cans of cider until 05:00 on the day of the crash.

His court case heard because he was too hungover and tired to work, he decided to make the drive home to Neath Port Talbot from Leicester, where he had been working as a painter and decorator.

He had been drinking red wine while driving, was twice over the drink-driving limit, and had traces of cocaine in his system when he crashed.

His Ford Transit van ploughed into the family's red Ford Fiesta after they had pulled over on the motorway between Newport and Cardiff because Gracie had been feeling unwell.

Gracie and Jayden later died in hospital while Rhiannon suffered serious internal injuries that she feared might prevent her from having another child.

Mum Rhiannon, dad Adam and little Summer-Gracie
Adam and Rhiannon are trying to rebuild their lives with Summer-Gracie after the deaths of Gracie-Ann and Jayden-Lee

"When we found out she was due on Gracie-Anne's birthday, we knew she would be a special baby," said Adam, 28.

"For us to be having a child of our own and for what we've been through, it's something happy and positive - and when Summer arrived, I just broke down in tears of happiness.

"For me, Summer is the key factor for us rebuilding our lives. That is something that kept us sane, kept us going and having a bit of normality.

"We'll obviously never forget Gracie and Jayden, they'll always be a huge part of our lives and they're Summer's brother and sister."

How did the crash happen?

The BBC's Crash Detectives programme shows how electronic data from Newman's white Ford Transit showed the van ploughed into the back of their stationary red Ford Fiesta at 57mph (92km/h), and he did not brake until two-and-a-half seconds before impact.

Martin Newman
Martin Newman had been taking cocaine and sipped red wine while driving

Police investigations found he was straddling the line between the hard shoulder and the inside lane when he crashed into the car.

The van's data indicated the steering angle was relatively straight, showing the vehicle was straddling the hard shoulder for 120m (393ft) and almost five seconds before the collision.

Motorway CCTV footage captured along the south Wales M4 corridor showed Newman's van driving erratically, swerving between lanes and tailgating other vehicles in the moments before the crash.

BBC iPlayer
BBC iPlayer

Watch how Gwent Police's dedicated forensic collision investigators discovered how Jayden Lee and his sister Gracie Ann was killed in the latest episode of Crash Detectives.

Crash Detectives
Crash Detectives

The final show of the series is on BBC One Wales or BBC Two everywhere else at 19:00 BST on Monday or catch on BBC iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer
BBC iPlayer

Mobile phone records showed he took or made 37 calls in the two-and-a-half hour drive from Leicester to Newport and investigations showed he was not using hands-free.

Police also said Newman, who had previous convictions for drink-driving and using his phone at the wheel, was streaming YouTube and Spotify.

Newman was jailed for nine years and four months after admitting two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

Tougher sentences call

Official figures estimate 220 people a year die on British roads because of drink-driving - 15% of all annual road deaths - with about 80 dying because of drug-driving.

Jason Lucas
Rhiannon's father Jason Lucas wants tougher sentences for those who drink-drive after the death of his two grandchildren

The family have pleaded with drivers not to drink and drive and called for driving bans for those who have been caught.

"Imagine telling your daughter, her two kids had passed away," said Rhiannon's dad and the children's granddad Jason Lucas. "That's what I had to do.

"He wrecked my daughter's life, my life, everybody's life. We went through hell and I wouldn't want anyone else to go through that.

"There's stupid people still drink-driving now. Please stop drink-driving, think of somebody else - it could be your child or loved one next time."

Rhiannon wants all motorists to consider others before they drive and has even challenged people in her home town.

"Even some people in Tredegar that will just get in the car and drive drunk," she said.

"It's wrong and I've gone on to a few people and said you're going to lose someone one day.

"I saw a boy driving on the phone the other week and I shouted at him to get off because he's going to do damage to somebody or somebody's loved one - and he stuck his fingers up at me thinking 'what do you know?'

"Hopefully people see where I'm coming from."

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this story, the BBC Action Line has links to organisations which can offer support and advice.