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Texting lorry driver jailed over M62 deaths
6:00am Friday 30th August 2013 in News
A lorry driver who was distracted by a text message when he was involved in fatal crash on a motorway near Bradford has been jailed for more than five years.
Ethen Roberts, 44, struck a car on the M62 and then toppled on to it crushing the couple inside, a court heard.
Roberts had moved into the middle lane to overtake another vehicle in an area near the junction with the M606 at Chain Bar limited to 50mph at the time because of narrow lanes and roadworks.
But as the road ahead started to rise his vehicle, with a 19 ton load, slowed and cars on the inside lane began catching up with him.
One of those was driven by Mark McHale, 46, who was on his way to Manchester Airport with his wife Tamsie, 43, intending to fly to Cuba on holiday.
Richard Clews, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court the lorry veered into the McHales’ Audi, pushing it in front of his lorry for a time before it was then propelled into the third lane facing the wrong way.
Meanwhile the lorry swerved first to the right then the left. That had a destabilising effect and it jack-knifed and fell on top of the car, killing the pair inside.
At first Roberts tried to blame Mr McHale for the crash. Examination of his phone showed no messages at the time concerned, but checks then revealed at least one text had been deleted.
Records revealed over the previous three days Roberts had received 58 text messages from a good friend, Helen Chapman, all while tachograph records showed he was driving, and the last one had arrived about one minute 16 seconds before the collision. He had sent 48 messages to her in return.
“It is clear he was in the habit of both reading and composing text messages while driving and had done so frequently on the day of the collision,” said Mr Clews.
“In all probability the defendant was either reading the message from Helen Chapman or had read it and was in the process of making a reply. There is no other reason for deleting it otherwise.”
Roberts, of Ings Lane, Immingham, admitted two charges of causing the deaths of Mr and Mrs McHale by dangerous driving on July 25 last year.
He was jailed for five years three months and disqualified from driving for five years. Sentencing him, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said: “Evidence clearly shows you had a regular habit of reading and composing and sending text messages while driving. If ever a case demonstrated the obvious danger of that this is it and the danger in doing that was obvious and it created a grossly avoidable distraction.
“You received a text message very shortly before the collision and you were either reading it or composing a reply when you lost control of your lorry.”
Peter Horgan for Roberts told the court he had been driving HGVs for 13 years doing an average 30,000 miles a year without a problem. He deeply regretted what had happened and would never again drive an HGV