Former F1 driver Jyrki Järvilehto given prison sentence for fatal speedboat crash
Järvilehto allowed to remain free until the appeals process is concluded
On Wednesday, the former Formula One driver Jyrki Järvilehto, who raced in the 1990s under the name JJ Lehto, received an unconditional prison sentence of two years and four months for a fatal boating accident that occurred in Jomalvik, Raseborg, west of Helsinki, in the summer of 2010.
On the basis of the injuries sustained by Järvilehto and his deceased friend, the Western Uusimaa District Court became convinced that the ex-F1 racer was the one steering the boat.
Järvilehto’s 42-year-old friend died in the accident. In the District Court’s view, the injuries sustained by the deceased indicated that the man was the passenger.
Conversely, Järvilehto’s injuries were most likely caused when his body struck the steering wheel on impact.
Even though the injuries could not indicate with 100% certainty where the two men were sitting on the boat, the District Court ruled that there was no reasonable doubt about the one behind the speedboat’s wheel at the time of the accident.
The District Court said that what Järvilehto did was very reprehensible. According to the prosecutor, Järvilehto’s blood alcohol level was at least 2.53 ppm, indicating serious intoxication, and the man was driving his speedboat at a speed of at least 79 kilometres per hour in a 5 km/h zone.
The boat crashed into the upright of a road bridge over Tammisaari’s narrow Jomalvik canal.
Nevertheless, the court regarded as exaggerated the prosecutor’s demand for an unsuspended prison sentence of at least five years.
”In my opinion, it was not an exaggerated demand. What he did is as culpable as a deliberate homicide, which should also be reflected in the punishment”, argues District Prosecutor Antti Sundberg.
The District Court ordered Järvilehto to pay a total of EUR 20,000 to the victim’s widow and three children for their mental anguish. In addition, he will have to pay financial support to the children.
Jyrki Järvilehto denies having driven the fibreglass boat at the time of the accident and plans to appeal against the sentence. He will be allowed to remain free until the conclusion of the appeal process.
As JJ Lehto, Järvilehto drove in Formula 1 between 1989 and 1994 for the Onyx, Scuderia Italia, Sauber, and Benetton teams, and achieved his best F1 finish in 1991, when he was 3rd at Imola.
Injuries and accidents plagued his final season in the sport, when he was the second driver to Michael Schumacher in the Benetton team, on the occasion of Schumacher's controversial first F1 Drivers' Championship title.
He subsequently moved over to sportscar racing, winning the Le Mans 24-Hour race in 1995 in a works McLaren, and he was victorious again with Audi in 2005, when he also took the honours in the 12 Hours of Sebring race in Florida.
Järvilehto, 45, has more recently worked as an F1 commentator on Finnish television.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Jyrki Järvilehto and prosecutor disagree over who was driving speedboat when former FI pilot´s friend was killed in 2010 crash (23.11.2011)
Former F1 driver Jyrki Järvilehto charged with manslaughter in connection with June 2010 speedboat accident (26.8.2011)
Former F1 driver under suspicion following fatal boat accident (22.6.2010)
JJ Lehto (Wikipedia)