Two lorry drivers blasted their horns to try to alert drunken trucker Ryszard Masierak shortly before eight people were killed as a minibus and lorry slammed into him, a jury has been told.
The men both told how they spotted the Polish man’s lorry “parked” in lane one of the M1 motoway jusy south of Northampton in the pitch black but managed to pass it safely, sounding their horns to try to attract his attention. The incidents were recorded on their dashboard cameras.
In the minutes that followed, the minibus containing an Indian family on their way to Disneyland Paris, also encountered Masierak’s stationary lorry and managed to stop, switching its hazard warning lights on.
However, following behind was David Wagstaff in another lorry and he failed to see either the lorry or the minibus and ploughed - at 56mph - straight into them, killing all eight occupants of the minibus which was crushed in the concertina collision.
The jury trying both Masierak and Wagstaff for causing the eight deaths by dangerous driving, had been told that the horrific Bank Holiday crash happened on an unlit stretch of the M1 near Newport Pagnall. Evidence was found that the Polish lorry driver had been stationary in the carriageway for 12 minutes before the crash happened.
He had also been drinking alcohol and empty cans of cider were found in the cab of his truck.
Jared Peel and Guy Fox both gave evidence to the jury on Friday after footage from their dashcams showed the lorry belonging to Masierak in the first lane parked up.
Giving evidence over a videolink, Jared Peel, a fully qualified HGV licence holder since 2003, confirmed that he saw the lorry and took action to pass it before sounding his horn in an attempt to alert the driver.
He said: “The vehicle behind me that overtook also blew his horn. I did that to try to get his attention and warn him what he is doing was dangerous. The lorry behind also fully illuminated his lights on full beam.”
Mr Peel had previously told police he could see no reason why the lorry would have stopped.
When questioned by Gillian Jones QC, representing Wagstaff, Peel said he saw Masierak’s parked lorry about half a mile away and that he thought he had between 10 and 15 seconds to react.
Mrs Jones added: “You had your vehicle on cruise control and suddenly as you got closer you were catching up with the lorry pretty quickly. You perceived this vehicle was moving more slowly and just stopped.
“It was not until you were 100 yards away that you appreciated this hazard was stationary. You gave yourself a time of 10 to 15 seconds to react, but in fact at half a mile back doing 56mph you had 32 seconds. But to you it felt a lot shorter as you said.”
Guy Fox was driving a white Scania HGV on the night and also described the moment he encountered the parked lorry on the M1 as was shown on footage played to the jury.
Mr Fox said: “I could not see anything in the cab of the [stationary] lorry, I can’t remember if it was dark or a light was on.
“I saw the lorry at about the two-thirds of a mile sign for the turn off. It was at the 300 yard marker that I realised the lorry was stationary. I looked in my mirror but there was a car in the middle lane.
“I indicated and the car sped up a bit and I moved over. I could not see the full flashers on the parked lorry, just the usual four lights on the back. It was a shock to me.”
Nigel Lowe, a forensic scientist, confirmed the toxicology reports given in the opening speech to the jury by prosecutor Oliver Saxby, QC, and when quizzed by Judge Francis Sheridan to put it in layman’s terms for the jury and others, whether Masierak was over the limit, he confirmed this.
Mr Lowe said: “It is difficult to answer that without knowing the full pattern of drinking but I am fully satisfied with the answers given.”
Judge Sheridan replied: “Well that’s that then, if you are over, you are over.”
Masierak, of Barnards Close, Evesham, Worcs., aged 32 years, is charged with a total of 20 counts relating to the collision including eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving, four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and eight counts of causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit.
Wagstaff, of Derwent Street, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., aged 54 years, is also charged with eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The jury heard that he admitted careless driving but this was not accepted by the prosecution.
Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, aged 33 years and wife Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, aged 32 years, who were from the Alwarthirunagar area of Chennai, India were one couple to die in the crash.
Subramaniyan Arachelvan, aged 58 years, and his wife Tamilmani Arachelvan, aged 50 years, from the Saket area of Dehli, India were another couple who lost their lives in the collision.
Also killed were 63-year-old Panneerselvam Annamalai from the Nagar area of Chennai, India, 26-year-old Vivek Baskaran from the Avaiyambalpuram area of Mayiladuthurai, India, and 27-year-old Rishi Rajeev Kumar from Kerala, India.
The minibus driver and owner of Nottingham-based ABC Travels, Cyriac Joseph, aged 52 years and from Nottingham, was the only person killed in the crash with a British address.
On Friday the case was adjourned until today (Monday).