Former soldier Matthew Bradley, 27, was high on psychedelic drug LSD, which he claimed he was using to ‘self medicate’ for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, at the time of the near fatal crash.
After being spotted driving at up to 88mph through Preston in a white Audi A1, Bradley overtook waiting cars at the junction of Garstang Road and Black Bull Lane, and shot through the red lights into a silver Vauxhall Zafira driven by Ali Harun, 57.
Mr Harun and Shafiq Ahmed, 74, were en route to the Masjid e Salaam mosque on Watling Street Road to celebrate Ramadan with 16-year-old relative, Mohammed Ali, who was in the back.
The impact catapulted both vehicles into a Volkswagen Golf, which shunted into a second Golf on the other side of the junction as horrified customers at the nearby Black Bull pub and Double Tree restaurant looked on.
The crash left 74-year-old grandad Shafiq Ahmed in hospital for a month – a week of it spent fighting for his life in intensive care.
The father-of-four, who moved to Preston from Bangladesh in 1965 and ran the former Bengal restaurant on Friargate, suffered serious internal injuries.
Speaking after the sentencing, his daughter Waheeda, 35, recalled the sickening moment she arrived at the scene and recognised the car her dad had been in, which was virtually obliterated by the impact.
She said: “The impact of his actions are ongoing for my dad – he will never be the same again. He used to walk three miles a day, now he can’t walk without a walking stick.
“The force of the seatbelt left him with a painful abscess. He has aged a lot.
“He was not one to sit around. He was always active, gardening, walking, and childminding for the family.
“He is taking a day at a time.
“I got a phone call from people we knew at the restaurant saying they thought he had been involved in an accident.”
Waheeda and her mum Rani, 64, rushed to the scene to see what had happened, and they were greeted by the horrific scene pictured above.
She added: “We weren’t allowed near the scene but could see the cars, my dad had already been taken to hospital.
“We thought immediately that it was over – that no-one could ever survive something as bad as that.
“We weren’t happy with the sentence – it’s two years of the driver’s life, but it will affect my dad for the rest of his. He will never fully recover.
“It seems sympathetic towards the driver - but I don’t feel sorry for him because it was his choice to take those recreational drugs instead of getting proper help.”
Prosecuting at Preston’s Sessions House court, Paul Brookwell described how the incident occurred at around 10.50pm outside the Black Bull pub on Black Bull Lane, Fulwood.
He said: “One witness who was in one of the cars he overtook says the noise was horrendous. He said he looked in horror as the cars flew at least 20m. The impact on the defendant’s car was such that it caught fire.
“A police car arrived almost immediately. Officers saw him driving close to North Road, where he made an obscene gesture to police as he drove past.
“The defendant accepts he was trying reach 88mph.”
The court heard Bradley, of Redcar Road, Westhoughton, Bolton, was on LSD, MME and was hallucinating.
He had served as a foreman in the Army and was suffering from PTSD and a psychologist report concluded he was “very unwell”.
His defence lawyer said it was a “tragedy in every way” and that Bradley, of previous good character, had demonstrated remorse and empathy with his victims.
The judge, Recorder Rigby, acknowledged his problems but said: “It could have been an absolutely catastrophic collision. I don’t imagine those victims would think the sentence is long enough but it does reflect the seriousness of what you did.
“It’s not so very different to someone consuming a colossal amount of alcohol, getting behind the wheel and being incapable of controlling that car and in your cases there’s the added element of behaving in a completely irrational way.”