A DRINK-DRIVER has been jailed for eight years and eight months for causing the deaths of a East Lancashire headteacher and her partner by ploughing into their vehicle on the A59.

Thomas Finnegan, 29, had also taken cocaine when his Mercedes Vito van smashed into a Nissan Juke being driven by Mark Gregson shortly before 10pm on January 24.

Mr Gregson, 52, and his partner Claire Lucas, 43, were pronounced dead at the scene, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Finnegan’s girlfriend, Lucille Hammond, who was the frontseat passenger in the van, suffered a fractured spine.

Finnegan, of Park Lane, North Newington, Oxfordshire, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, one offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, driving while under the influence of drugs and driving with excess alcohol.

Prosecutor Michael Smith said Finnegan was driving home after drinking and taking drugs at The Cross Keys at East Marton.

Mr Gregson, who worked for Arla Foods at Settle, and Ms Lucas, headteacher at Bradley Nursery School in Nelson, were returning to their home near Kelbrook after a shopping trip.

The court heard that the happy and popular couple had been together for around four years and had two children each from previous relationships.

Mr Smith said that Finnegan, who sustained only minor injuries in the crash, was almost twice the legal drink-drive limit and had cocaine and cannabis in his blood.

He failed to negotiate a lefthand bend at Broughton and crashed head-on into the Nissan Juke which was being driven on the correct side of the road. The van ended up “entirely” in the wrong lane.

CCTV from The Cross Keys showed Finnegan arriving at 5pm and driving off four and a half hours later. He told the police he drank three pints of lager at the pub and took two to three grams of cocaine.

A witness to the crash spoke of “an explosion” at the point of impact. Victim impact statements from the families of Mr Gregson and Ms Lucas spoke of the couple’s happiness together and closeness to their loved ones.

Four children had lost a parent and would suffer the heartbreak for the rest of their lives.

Staff and children at Ms Lucas’ school were devastated by the tragedy last year and Mr Gregson’s family paid tribute to a man who loved music, football and his family.

James Littlehales, Finnegan’s barrister, said his client had apologised to the families and was deeply remorseful.

His partner had also been seriously injured. Finnegan had seen service in the Royal Navy and had owned his own expanding business at the time.

The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Richard Mansell QC, said Mr Gregson and Ms Lucas were a happy couple whose lives were cruelly cut short.

Mr Gregson had absolutely no chance of avoiding the collision. Finnegan ploughed into his vehicle head-on devastating the lives of both families.

“Unimaginable grief” was caused and the lives of four children were torn apart.

Judge Mansell banned Finnegan from driving for nine years and four months and until he takes an extended retest.