Two lorry drivers facing jail over M1 crash which killed eight people

7 March 2018, 15:21

Two lorry drivers are facing jail after a crash on the M1 which killed eight people.

A minibus driver and seven passengers on their way to Disneyland died in the collision during the August bank holiday weekend last year.

Four other tourists were left seriously injured when the vehicle was forced under a lorry which driver Ryszard Masierak had stopped in the slow lane of the motorway.

The 31-year-old Polish national, of Evesham, Worcestershire, was found guilty on Tuesday of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Fed Ex driver David Wagstaff held his head in his hands after he was cleared of the same charges on Wednesday.

He had already pleaded guilty to eight charges of causing death by careless driving and four counts of careless driving.

Reading Crown Court heard that minibus driver Cyriac Joseph had been waiting with his hazard lights on to go around Masierak's vehicle when he was hit by another lorry, driven by Wagstaff.

Wagstaff, who was on a hands free call and in cruise control at 56mph, ploughed into the minibus, which had been taking the passengers from Nottingham to London to catch a coach to Disneyland.

Masierak's vehicle sat stationary on the motorway for 12 minutes on 26 August, despite miles of hard shoulder being available to him.

He described himself to the jury as a "careful driver" and claimed he had tried to pull over on to the hard shoulder as he felt unwell, but passed out and could not remember anything.

He denied he was drunk, but a breath test at the scene and later at a police station showed he was "likely to have been in the region of twice the legal limit" at the time of the collision, the court heard.

Following Tuesday's verdicts, the jury was no longer required to consider alternative charges against Masierak of causing death by careless driving, while over the prescribed alcohol limit.

Wagstaff, 54, 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".

He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Joseph's widow was in court for the verdicts.

Judge Francis Sheridan praised the families of the deceased for their behaviour throughout the trial.

Six men and two women were killed in the crash.

Mr Joseph, from Nottingham, died alongside Panneerselvam Annamalai, Rishi Ranjeev Kumar, Vivek Baskaran, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, Subramaniyan Arachelvan and Tamilmani Arachelvan, all from India.

Four other minibus passengers, including a four-year-old girl, were seriously injured in the collision on the southbound M1 near Milton Keynes.

Wagstaff, from Stoke, was released on bail following the verdict.

He will be sentenced alongside Masierak at Aylesbury Crown Court on 23 March.