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American driver is fined for crash at drag race; Three spectators injured.

Byline: Robin Turner

AN AMERICAN who had a six-litre Pontiac "muscle car" imported from the US has been fined over a crash which occurred during an illegal drag race.

Michael Palumbo, a house husband who lived in Penarth, admitted careless driving over the race at a business park in South Wales in which a BMW driven by Jia Guo crashed.

Details of the illegal race in which three spectators were injured emerged at Swansea Crown Court yesterday.

Judge Peter Heywood said he would have made BMW driver Guo, 24, pay "significant" compensation to those injured but the law did not allow him to do so.

Guo admitted dangerous driving.

He was jailed for 32 weeks, suspended for 18 months, ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid work for the community, banned from driving for 18 months and was also ordered to pay pounds 1,200 in prosecution costs.

The Pontiac driver, American citizen Palumbo, 37, admitted careless driving and was ordered to pay pounds 605 in fines and costs.

He had previously been cleared during a trial of a charge of dangerous driving.

Swansea Crown Court heard the prosecution resulted from an illegal drag race held on Central Avenue in the M4-side Baglan Energy Park, Port Talbot, on January 9. Guo, doing a masters course at Swansea Metropolitan University, was behind the wheel of a pounds 28,000, four-litre BMW M3.

Palumbo was driving a six-litre Pontiac "muscle car" he had personally shipped over from America.

Creighton Harvey, prosecuting, said the race was over 200 metres from a standing start and several spectators had gathered to watch.

The BMW veered to the left soon after the start, hit a kerb and struck spectators Sian Pimm, Hugh Bevan and Marcus Bounds.

Miss Pimm suffered facial and leg injuries and will be permanently scarred.

Mr Bounds suffered a double fracture to the right leg, while Mr Bevan suffered leg and back injuries.

The court heard that Guo's family, from China, had "substantial dealings" and could meet any compensation orders that may be made by the court.

Palumbo, of Cae Canol, Penarth, was described as a house husband whose wife worked for an American company based in Barry.

Judge Heywood said he was minded to make "significant and substantial" compensation orders in respect of those injured. But he said, because both drivers had been insured, the law required him to leave the matter to be determined in the civil courts, despite the time that would take.

He said he wanted the injured spectators to know that if he had the power, he would have made orders in their favour.

He added that should they take their damages claims to the civil courts, they would be "cast-iron" cases.

The judge added he could not make Palumbo pay his own defence costs for the trial because he had offered a guilty plea to careless driving from the outset.

He also added he could not even endorse Palumbo's driving licence with penalty points because it was an American-issued licence.

To Palumbo's credit, the judge told the court, he had kept his car in a straight line.

Judge Heywood told the court both men had been "wholly irresponsible" in taking part in a race on a public road, in wet conditions and at night time.

It was impossible to tell, he added, what speed the vehicles had reached.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 18, 2011
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