M1 Drivers Sentenced For Fatal MiniBus Crash
Two lorry drivers have been jailed for causing a pile-up that killed eight people and seriously injured four others travelling in a minibus that was taking passengers to Disneyland.
Ryszard Masierak, 31, was jailed for 14 years while FedEx Driver David Wagstaff, 54, was jailed for three years and four months today (Friday 23rd) at Aylesbury Crown Court for causing the collision on the M1 in the early hours of August 26 last year.
The minibus driven by Cyriac Joseph was crushed between their two vehicles when Masierak came to a complete stop in the slow lane while twice the legal alcohol limit.
Wagstaff had his vehicle on cruise control and was chatting on his hands-free set when he ploughed into the back of the minibus at 56mph, forcing it under Masierak's lorry near Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire.
Mr Joseph was waiting with his hazard lights on for the chance to go around Masierak when his minibus was hit by Wagstaff.
Wagstaff would have had the obstruction ahead in his sight for nine seconds but did not brake or try to turn the wheel before the crash.
MOST SERIOUS CRASH FOR 26 YEARS
Six men, including Mr Joseph, and two women were killed in the smash, while four others including a four-year-old girl were seriously injured.
The remaining deceased were named as Panneerselvam Annamalai, Rishi Ranjeev Kumar, Vivek Baskaran, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, Subramaniyan Arachelvan and Tamilmani Arachelvan.
Judge Francis Sheridan said the crash was the most serious in the UK for more than 26 years.
The victims had been on their way from Nottingham to London to catch a coach to Disneyland Paris.
Polish national Masierak, of Evesham, Worcestershire, had been stationary in the slow line for more than 12 minutes, despite miles of hard shoulder being available to him.
At trial, it emerged he did not have a professional licence after it was revoked by the authorities for multiple driving offences including speeding in his HGV, driving his lorry in the fast lane, running a red light and ignoring driving hours limits.
The court heard that Masierak had been driving erratically for more than two hours before the accident, including driving the wrong way around a major roundabout, driving the wrong way down a motorway slip way and then turning on the slip way to retrace his path.
Multiple witnesses reported beeping or flashing their lights at Masierak while he was stationary on the M1, which he ignored, indicating he was either asleep or unconscious at the time.
Cider cans were found in the cab of his lorry, suggesting that he had been drinking while at the wheel.
Masierak was convicted of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving after trial at Reading Crown Court earlier this month.
Wagstaff, from Stoke, admitted eight counts of causing death by careless driving and four counts of careless driving, but was cleared of more serious charges of causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving.
Judge Francis Sheridan said to Masierak: "What you have tried to do is blame everyone and everybody except yourself.
"In short, you are a persistent, unmitigated, if not very accomplished, liar."
He said he had shown "no remorse" and that there was "no mitigation" in his case.
Turning to Wagstaff, he said: "You had between nine and 11 second to see the vehicles ahead had you not been so distracted by using the phone, albeit on Bluetooth.
"You took no action whatsoever because you weren't concentrating on what was in front of you, they were there to be seen and you didn't see them."
He acknowledged Wagstaff's good driving record, remorse and guilty plea.
Masierak had described himself to the jury as a "careful driver" and claimed he had attempted to pull over onto the hard shoulder as he felt unwell, but passed out and could not remember anything.
The court heard that he had not told his employers AIM of any of his previous driving convictions.
He denied he was drunk, claiming the cider cans had been left by a previous driver even though they had his finger prints on them.
Wagstaff had been a HGV driver for 12 years with a clean licence until the crash.
He told the jury at the trial, which lasted a little under two weeks, that he could not remember what happened and put it down to a "lack of concentration".
His lawyer Ben Gordon told a jury at Reading Crown Court that Wagstaff's doctor reports he has "vivid and intrusive memories particularly from being at the side of the road" and about "the recovery of bodies".
He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The victims' families were not present for the sentencing hearing.