A courier who had been seen on CCTV inhaling laughing gas from balloons as he drove, caused the death of a teenage girl when his van ploughed off a bridge.

Cameron Hughes, 24, had also been on his mobile phone moments before he veered off the northbound exit slip road of the A56 near Huncoat on Friday, July 7, as he approached a sharp turn at high speed.

Lancashire Telegraph: Bonny Rae Barrow and Cameron HughesBonny Rae Barrow and Cameron Hughes (Image: Lancs Police)

His passenger, 15-year-old Bonny Rae Barrow, was seriously injured and rushed to hospital, where she later died.

Hughes also suffered injuries.

Lancashire Telegraph: Flowers at the crash sceneFlowers at the crash scene (Image: Archive)

During the 35-minute journey which ended with the crash, there were numerous close calls with other vehicles, occasions where Hughes was driving in to the hard shoulder, straddling between lanes and in once instance his van bounced off a kerb at the edge of the carriageway at over 60mph.

Prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, Peter Barr read evidence from the police which gave details of the crash.

Lancashire Telegraph: Hughes inhaling from balloons in the carHughes inhaling from balloons in the car (Image: Lancs Police)

A collision investigation report prepared by PC Williams of Lancashire Constabulary concluded the crash happened at 7.20pm on Friday, July 7, on the northbound exit slip road of the A56 Accrington Bypass, at the junction of the A679 Burnley Road.

Investigations found the Mercedes Sprinter van approached a tight left-hand bend between 62-68mph and understeered, colliding with a bridge parapet and falling onto a dirt track below the carriageway.

An eyewitness said she saw a “young man” sat on the floor next to the van after the crash, and informed him an ambulance was on the way. He told her his name was Cameron and said to her over and over that he lost control and kept asking “if she [Bonny] was okay.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Bonny Rae BarrowBonny Rae Barrow (Image: Lancs Police)

Bonny, a family friend of Hughes, suffered catastrophic injuries and was taken to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where she underwent treatment. She was later transferred to Wythenshawe Hospital but died on arrival.

Mr Barr said: “The defendant accepts inhaling nitrous oxide through yellow balloons as he was driving.

“This was a prolonged, persistent, and deliberate course of dangerous driving. There was prolonged use of a mobile phone. The driving was highly impaired.”

It was found through examination of Hughes’ phone he had sent a message around 30 seconds prior to the crash.

In a victim personal statement which she read to the court, Bonny’s mother, Sarah Barrow, said: “I feel like my life was cut short alongside Bonny’s. I was so looking forward to her leaving school, going to college, passing her driving test, maybe even getting married and having children.

Lancashire Telegraph: Hughes inhaling from a balloon while drivingHughes inhaling from a balloon while driving (Image: Lancs Police)

“We thought we could always depend on him [Cameron] to look after Bonny safely if we needed him to. I thought Cameron was part of that protection, but it turned out not to be the case.

“I want Bonny back causing mischief, making TikTok videos, and keeping me on my toes.

“This Christmas, we won’t be sat around the tree celebrating. We cannot bring ourselves to celebrate it. It won’t be the same without her.

“I would give anything for her to be back with us.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Hughes on his phone while driving Hughes on his phone while driving (Image: Lancs Police)

Richard Dawson, defending, said: “This is a tragic case which has had catastrophic consequences. One cannot help being moved listening to the emotional sentiments expressed by Bonny’s mother.

“It is acknowledged there will be an immediate sentence of imprisonment. Its purpose is to punish rather than rehabilitate.

“Plainly, it has had a dramatic effect on him. He was employed as a courier at this time.

“Bonny was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of this collision. Had she been restrained matters may have concluded differently.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Bonny Rae Barrow and Cameron HughesBonny Rae Barrow and Cameron Hughes (Image: Lancs Police)

Sentencing, Judge Heather Lloyd said: “Bonny has just finished her mock GCSE exams and her whole life was ahead of her. She was a well-loved member of the family, and she very much enjoyed your company.

“Her mother described you and she as having a really close bond always filled with fun and laughter. They thought they could always look to you to look after Bonny safely if they needed you to.

“Of course, you did not intend this to happen. You and she were having a good time as you drove along.

“There was no force upon you to inhale it [the nitrous oxide] yourself. Laughing gas is dangerous. It’s neurotic and can cause permanent neurological damage. Next month, it seems the government are going to make it an illegal substance to possess.

“You were not wearing a seatbelt and you did not insist Bonny did either.

Lancashire Telegraph:  Cameron Hughes Cameron Hughes (Image: Lancs Police)

“A young 15-year-old life has been needlessly wiped out. This was a tragedy waiting to happen during that journey.

“The effects of your behaviour are those you will have to live with for the rest of your life. But at least you will have a life to live, unlike Bonny.”

Hughes, of Haddington Drive, Manchester, pleaded guilty to one count of causing death by dangerous driving.

He was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison, along with a driving ban of eight years and nine months.

In an emotional tribute Bonny’s family said: “Bonny was an amazing daughter who was kind, loving and always wanted to spend time with her family and friends.

“We cherish the memories of her and the joy she brought us for the 15 years that she was in our lives. We all miss her so much and would do anything to have her back.

“Cameron had one job that day – to get Bonny home to us safely. But he made dangerous choices that led to her death and cost us the chance to watch her fully blossom in to the beautiful young woman she was becoming."

A spokesperson for the police said: "Too often we see the aftermath of drivers under the influence of nitrous oxide.

Lancashire Telegraph: An aerial image of the crash sceneAn aerial image of the crash scene (Image: Lancs Police)

"It is seen by many to be a harmless drug but as shown here, the consequences of misusing it can be fatal.

"On November 8 2023, nitrous oxide will become a controlled class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

"We welcome this news in the hope that it deters this dangerous behaviour and prevents other families having to go through what Bonny’s are."