Stoke-on-Trent HGV driver was 'on hands-free call and in cruise control when he smashed into back of van killing 8 …

Lorry driver David Wagstaff was on a hands-free call with his HGV in cruise control while another trucker was twice the drink-drive limit when a motorway crash killed eight people, a court heard. The 54-year-old, of Derwent Street, Cobridge, smashed into the back of a van, forcing it into and under Polish national Ryszard Masierak’s lorry which had stopped in the slow lane of the M1. Masierak, aged 32, had allegedly been stationary for 12 minutes in in the early hours of August 26 2017, despite there being miles of hard shoulder available.

His lorry caused an obstruction on the motorway forcing others to slow before moving around him.

David Wagstaff arriving at Reading Crown Court.David Wagstaff arriving at Reading Crown Court.

It was while minibus driver Cyriac Joseph waited with his hazard lights on for a chance to go around the heavy goods vehicle that Wagstaff hit the van. Opening the case, prosecutor Oliver Saxby told Reading Crown Court it was ‘an entirely avoidable collision, with the most catastrophic and tragic of consequences’.

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Addressing jurors he said it was ’caused by the dangerous driving of these two defendants’. He added: “In Mr Masierak’s case, under the influence of alcohol, parking up in the slow lane of the M1, an act as flagrant as it was dangerous.

What on earth did he think he was doing? “And in Mr Wagstaff’s case, on a hands-free call, his lorry on cruise control and he on auto-pilot, completely failing to notice what was ahead of him in full view for some time, inattention on a gross scale.”

David Wagstaff

Mr Joseph and seven of his Indian passengers, en-route to London from Nottingham to catch a coach to Disneyland, were killed in the collision on the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend. The group were Catholics from the Malayali community from Kerala.

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The other fatalities, five men and two women, were Panneerselvam Annamalai, Rishi Ranjeev Kumar, Vivek Baskaran, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, Subramaniyan Arachelvan and Tamilmani Arachelvan.

Four other mini-bus passengers were injured in the collision on the southbound M1 near Milton Keynes.

Court artist sketch of Ryszard Masierak (left)

The court heard Wagstaff was driving at 56mph, and did not brake or decelerate before ploughing into Mr Joseph’s van just after 3am. Wagstaff and Masierak both deny eight charges each of causing death by dangerous driving, and four counts each of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The jury of eight men and four women were told Mr Wagstaff admitted causing death by careless driving of the eight people and careless driving in relation to the four injured people.

Emergency services and media at the scene of the accident on the M1 Eight people were killed and four injured following the crash on the M1

Masierak faces a further eight charges of causing death by careless driving, while over the prescribed alcohol limit.

It is alleged that he had 55 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

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Some family and friends of those killed and injured in the crash sat in court for the first day of the trial.

Masierak, of Evesham, Worcestershire, who appeared in court wearing a grey sweatshirt, was assisted in following proceedings by a police translator.

The trial continues.

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