Two men have been convicted following a collision in which eight people died on the M1 motorway near Newport Pagnell.
Ryszard Masierak, 32, of Barnards Close, Evesham, Worcestershire, was found guilty on Tuesday (06/03) 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, 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 September 26th 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 on Wednesday (07/03).
The convictions relate to a collision that occurred at around 3am on Saturday August 26th 2017. Masierak had been driving a heavy goods vehicle on the M1 southbound near Newport Pagnell, and stopped his lorry in lane one of the carriageway, where he remained for 12.5 minutes and caused 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. They were six men and two women, including the minibus driver Cryiac Joseph, 52, from Nottingham, and married couple Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian and Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman from Chennai in India.
Panneerselvam Annamalai, 63, from the Nagar area of Chennai, Subramaniyan Arachelvan, 58, and his wife Tamilmani Arachelvan, from Delhi, Vivek Baskaran, 26, from Mayiladuthurai, and Rishi Rajeev Kumar, 27, from Kerala, were also identified.
Senior investigating officer Detective Sergeant Gavin Collier described the tragedy as “avoidable”, and felt the actions of Masierak showed “disregard for public safety.”
He 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, “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 March 23rd.