A NUCLEAR submarine operator has been jailed for causing the deaths of two young Flintshire women by dangerous driving. 

Benjamin Lewis, of West Vale, Neston, appeared before Chester Crown Court for sentencing on Wednesday (May 8). 

The 31-year-old had previously admitted causing the deaths of Rebecca Doughty and Ellie Crossley, both aged 20, by dangerous driving. 

He had initially entered guilty pleas at Chester Crown Court in October 2023 to death by careless driving, but had denied charges of death by dangerous driving. But At Chester Crown Court on Friday, February 9, Lewis changed his pleas to guilty to the more serious charge after the prosecution refused to accept his plea to the lesser charge. 


Lewis was charged over the fatal collision which happened on November 25, 2021 on the A5117 at Dunkirk, near to the junction with the M56 motorway.

Best friends Ellie Crossley, from Holywell, and Rebecca Doughty, from Connah's Quay, both 20, sadly died in the collision after they were hit by Lewis in his BMW.

The court heard that shortly before 9.30pm on November 25, 2021 Lewis was driving a blue BMW travelling on the A5119 when his vehicle swerved into the path of a Citreon being driven by Miss Crossley in the opposite direction.

Moments before the collision, Lewis was seen straddling the lane on the wrong side of the road, narrowly avoiding a collision with a car being driven by Amy Phillips, a close friend of Miss Crossley and Miss Doughty who was travelling in front of them.

Miss Phillips said she became aware of three cars travelling towards them, she believed that the third car, the defendant’s blue BMW was attempting to overtake the middle car, if not both cars.

She described this car straddling the middle of the road and swerving from side to side. Miss Phillips thought the defendant’s car was going to collide with her, so she moved to her right to avoid an impact. She then witnessed through her rear mirror the BMW career into Ellie’s vehicle causing both cars to spin.

The court was told that location data taken from Lewis' phone showed his car reached speeds of over 90mph prior to the collision, with witnesses describing the manner of his driving as "foolish" - with the road conditions decribed as "very dark and wet". The road has no street lighting and there had been on-off rain throughout the evening. 

The last recorded speed prior to impact was 62mph.

Expert analysis of Lewis' phone showed a peak speed of 93.1mph was calculated at 9.26pm. Immediately after this the car slowed rapidly, which was described by expert Dr Dixon as “harsh braking” before the collision occurred.

Lewis' car collided with the front off-side of Miss Crossley's Citreon.

Rhian Jones, another close friend of the victims who was travelling as passenger with Miss Phillips, was first on scene at the collision.

Emergency services subsequently attended but, despite all care efforts, both Miss Crossley and Miss Doughty, who had been shopping at Cheshire Oaks, were tragically pronounced dead at the scene. 

Lewis, a Royal Navy officer who served as a tactical systems operator on the HMS Vengeance nuclear submarine, denied that he had been racing his partner before the collision occurred.

The incident happened on a stretch of single-carriageway road, with solid white lines in the middle of the road deeming it unsafe to overtake vehicles. 

The defendant said this shortly after the collision whilst at hospital: “I went to overtake. Visibility was poor. As I moved over, I saw there was a car coming. I realised I had gone over the line, and I didn’t see them. As I tried to move back over I lost control and fishtailed and I hit the car in front of me".

After his arrest, Lewis said in police interview that he was unfamiliar with the road and thought potentially the A5117 was a dual carriageway.

He stated that he couldn’t recall comments made to his girlfriend, Sheri Bridges, immediately after the collision but confirmed he did recall speaking to her.

When asked about making the comments "overtake" and "100mph" to Bridges (which is what she says she remembered him saying) he suggested it could have been sarcasm at the time.

Judge Simon Berkson said that Lewis had "deliberately ignored" the rules of the road and had been speeding "significantly" in excess of the road limit and for the weather conditions at that time. 

A forensic collision investigators report stated that when a rear-wheel-drive vehicle is subject to harsh acceleration whilst negotiating a bend, the rear wheels can start to follow a path outside that travelled by the front wheels and the vehicle enters a state of oversteer. This can lead to the vehicle rotating and a loss of control, in this case travelling around a left hand bend the vehicle would rotate anti-clockwise.

They said it is possible that a harsh acceleration on the wet road contributed to a loss of control of the BMW.

Moving victim personal statements were read out by both victims' close family and friends. 

Steven Crossley, Miss Crossley's father, said "every moment of every day is a struggle" following the incident. 

"I wake up in the mornings I have an overwhelming feeling of complete dread at the thought of struggling another day without Ellie," he said.

Amanda Crossley, Miss Crossley's mother, said: "There are no words that can ever comprehend the true feeling of losing my daughter and my best friend.

"From the moment that Ellie died, a part of me died too, I am no longer the person I used to be, I can only explain my life as an existence, trying to get to the end of the day. The heartache and pain that I feel is immense, I miss her so much.

"I miss what would have been, my daughter finishing university, starting her career, starting a family, buying her first house, watching her get married with her proud dad by her side, grandchildren, a whole life that we had ahead of us."

Paul Doughty, Miss Doughty's father, said: "It is like being in a nightmare that you just couldn't wake up from. November 25, 2021 was the day the brightest light in our household went out forever."

The court heard that family and friends are being treated for mental health-related issues, including PTSD. 

Defending, Caroline Harris, said Lewis had shown "genuine remorse" for his actions, and that was a highly-respected member of the Royal Navy. He had references from high-ranking officers, including Darren Mason - Lewis' commanding officer aboard HMS Vengeance.

A recent psychiatric report diagnosed Lewis with autism spectrum disorder, and that he has PTSD - partly caused by the accident and also because of long periods of isolation on submarines during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Lewis was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment - six and a half of which will be served in custody, the remainder on licence.

He was also disqualified from driving for four years, and must complete an extended retest before being qualified to drive again.