Police say the actions of an Evesham lorry driver, convicted over a fatal crash on the M1, are "beyond explanation or reason".
Two men have been convicted following a collision in which eight people died on the M1 motorway near Newport Pagnell.
Ryszard Masierak, aged 32, of Barnards Close, Evesham, Worcestershire, was found guilty yesterday (6/3) by unanimous jury of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, at Reading Crown Court.
David Wagstaff, aged 54, of Derwent Street, Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to eight counts of causing death by careless driving at a previous hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court on 26 September 2017. He was acquitted of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving by a jury today (7/3).
At around 3am on Saturday 26 August last year Masierak had been driving a heavy goods vehicle on the M1 southbound near Newport Pagnell. He stopped his lorry in lane one of the carriageway where he remained for 12.5 minutes, causing an obstruction.
A group of family and friends was travelling in a minibus on their way to a trip around Europe.
The minibus approached Masierak’s stationary HGV in lane one, and stopped behind it, unable to pull in to lane two to overtake due to traffic.
Meanwhile Wagstaff was driving a lorry which approached the scene. He was talking on his mobile phone using hands free while on cruise control. He collided with the stationary vehicles while travelling at 56mph, pushing the minibus under Masierak’s lorry.
Eight people died at the scene;
Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, aged 33, and his wife, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, aged 32, who were from the Alwarthirunagar area of Chennai, India.
Panneerselvam Annamalai, aged 63, from the Nagar area of Chennai, India.
Subramaniyan Arachelvan, aged 58, and his wife Tamilmani Arachelvan, aged 50, from the Saket area of Delhi, India.
Vivek Baskaran, aged 26, from the Avaiyambalpuram area of Mayiladuthurai, India.
Rishi Rajeev Kumar, aged 27, from Kerala, India.
The minibus driver Cyriac Joseph, aged 52, who lived in Nottingham.
Masierak and Wagstaff were both arrested on the day of the collision (26/8) and were charged the following day (27/8).
Senior investigating officer Detective Sergeant Gavin Collier, of the Joint Operations Unit for Roads Policing, said: “This tragedy has permanently devastated the lives of all of those involved and is wholly the responsibility of both the defendants in the case, Mr Wagstaff and Mr Masierak.
“What is so poignant is that this tragedy was completely and utterly avoidable.
“This is not a case about people who drive heavy goods vehicles, but about all those drivers who fix their vehicles on cruise control or use hands free mobile phone devices but then fail to pay proper attention to what is going on in the road in front of them.
“The actions of Mr Masierak were beyond explanation or reason – to drive knowing you’re drunk, to stop your vehicle in the middle of the road - there are no words that can describe such disregard for public safety.”
Louise Attrill, Senior Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, said: “CCTV showed that the Scania lorry was parked in lane one without hazard warning lights on, causing a dangerous obstruction, for 12.5 minutes. At the scene Ryszard Masierak tried to claim he wasn’t the driver of the Scania lorry, he was over the prescribed limit for alcohol when breathalysed, and went on to answer ‘no comment’ during his police interviews. Witnesses described seeing him drive the wrong way around a roundabout where the A46 meets junction 2 of the M6, driving the wrong way down the M69 slip road, and swerving between lanes two and three before crawling in lane three.
“Analysis of his vehicle data identified his driving as erratic. On occasions his speed dropped to as low as 11mph. Wagstaff was on a hands-free call on his mobile phone with his Mercedes lorry on cruise control when he failed to see or react to the two stationary vehicles ahead of him and ploughed into the back of them causing destruction and devastation. The driver of the minibus and seven of his passengers were killed and four others, including a five-year-old girl, sustained serious injuries as a result of the horrific collision.
“This incident, caused by driver error of one drink driver and the prolonged inattention of another, resulted in a tragic waste of life and could have been avoided. The stationary vehicles were clearly visible to Wagstaff for a considerable time, but he was oblivious to the approaching hazard. This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to be alert when driving. Holding a driving licence brings with it a high degree of responsibility that should always be at the forefront of every driver’s mind. “
Both defendants are due to be sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court on 23 March.