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Lorry driver jailed after fatal A1 crash

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The aftermath of the fatal collision on the A1
The aftermath of the fatal collision on the A1

A Romanian lorry driver was using his mobile phone when he caused a six-vehicle collision that killed a 52-year-old council officer.

Dorel Galan, 38, of London Road, South Stifford, Grays, Essex, was driving on the A1 northbound at 7.55am on March 9 when he crashed into cars queuing for the slip road to the A1/A46/A17 junction.

The driver of one of the six vehicles involved in the collision, Mr Ian Newell, of Grantham, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Newell, who would have been 53 this month, worked for Lincolnshire County Council, as a business and public protection manager. He was married and father to twin 18-year-old daughters.

Galan was sentenced to five years and three months in prison at Nottingham Crown Court today after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.

Jailed: Dorel Galan
Jailed: Dorel Galan

He was banned from driving for six years and eight months and was given two further 18-month jail terms for using a false instrument with intent, which will be served concurrently.

These relate to the use of a driver card that records the length of journeys and the falsification of the vehicle's tachograph, a system that automatically records its speed and distance, together with the driver's activity.

Galan made a nine-minute video call using Facebook Messenger 18 minutes before the crash, prosecutor Mary Loram told the court.

He then made another phone call, without using a hands-free device, in the time leading up to the crash.

When approaching the line of queuing traffic he failed to slow down or respond, Mary Loram said.

A motorist in the queue realised Galan was not going to slow down and put his hazards on, but Galan did not respond to this, Mary Loram said.

A reconstruction played to the court showed he would have had 23 seconds to respond to the traffic.

Galan's lorry, which weighed 32 tonnes, including his load, struck a motorist at the back of the queue.

The impact caused his container to dislodge and continue down the road before tipping over.

Four other vehicles were struck, including that of Mr Newell, which was shunted underneath another lorry, causing his fatal injuries, Mary Loram told the court.

Galan initially told police he wasn't on the phone at time of the accident.

After his phone records were analysed he told the police the call was through a hands-free system.

Mary Loram told the court that on the day before the incident Galan was on his phone for 97% of a journey lasting more than nine hours.

The court heard that in the days prior, Galan had failed to take adequate rest periods, so he was fatigued.

Defending, Mr Harry Bowyer said Galan was a family man of previous good character.

He said his journey was well within the four-hour limit and he had taken a 37 hour break in the days leading up to the crash.

"It is fairly clear and this defendant has an understanding that that his days of driving large goods vehicles are effectively over," he said.

Sentencing Galan, Judge Timothy Spencer QC, said: "(Ian Newell) was a fine man, he was a positive contributor to society, he was at the centre of a loving family and he was a good, probably excellent, husband, father, son and brother and his loss is felt very greatly by those who knew him and, in particular, by those who loved him."

Judge Spencer said anyone who knew that junction of the A1 would know there was frequently traffic queuing on the slip road at that time of day and later in the evening.

He said: "You must have been able to see ahead had you been paying proper attention.

"There was 23 seconds worth of view, which is well illustrated by a reconstruction video.

"The only explanation can be that you were not paying attention to the road ahead.

"As you approached the stationary traffic ahead of you, you made no attempt to brake.

"It may be that you did apply the brakes at the very last moment, and the driver ahead of you described your vehicle as bucking, but if you did make an attempt to brake it was far too late and has no discernible or significant impact on the actual collision which is inevitable."

Detective Sergeant Clare Gibson, of the East Midlands Operational Support Service, said: "This was a horrific crash and it was only due to the quick-thinking actions of other drivers that the death toll was not higher.

"Galan’s behaviour should act as a warning to everyone of the dangers of both using a mobile phone behind the wheel and also of driving whilst tired – don’t do it!

"This is a tragic case and Judge Spencer described Ian Newell as an excellent husband, father, son brother and friend. He was a fine man who was a positive contributor to society and his loss is felt greatly by all who knew and loved him."

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