Lorry driver who suddenly stopped on A19 after missing turn-off guilty of causing death of driver

A lorry driver who suddenly stopped on the A19 after missing his turn-off has been found guilty of causing the death of a driver who slammed into the back of him. Marcel Balan took the dangerous decision to bring his Daf HGV to a halt on an unlit stretch of the dual carriageway. Three seconds later, 24-year-old John Robinson, on his way home from work, crashed his Ford Fusion into the back of the stationary lorry.

The force of the impact was such that the HGV was pushed forwards eight metres and Mr Robinson's car went underneath it. He died from severe head injuries. Balan, 57, had denied causing death by dangerous driving but was found guilty by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court - but on the basis he was not planning to reverse, as prosecutors had claimed.

Prosecutor Mark Guiliani said during the trial that Balan was out making deliveries on behalf of a coffee bar chain on March 12 last year and had started his shift in the early evening.

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Just before the fatal crash, which happened near midnight, Balan had made a delivery at Simonside service station in South Shields and was heading to the Bridges Shopping Centre, in Sunderland. Mr Guiliani said: "The route was in his satellite navigation device, which indicated he should take the A1231 Wessington Way slip road, a route he had  taken many times before. "He was travelling southbound, the road surface was wet, it was dark and there were no road lights.

John Robinson, who died on the A19

"He missed his turning and made a harsh stop in the nearside lane.

John Robinson, driving his Ford Fusion lawfully, drove into the back of Mr Balan's lorry. "The force of the collision moved the lorry forward eight metres and the Ford Fusion went under the lorry and Mr Robinson, who was 24, died from serious head injuries." Mr Guiliani said Balan had brought his vehicle to a stop within about eight  seconds and would have used "moderate to heavy" braking to do so.

He added: "To stop at all, let alone to make a stop so quickly when there was no emergency either ahead or behind was not only unnecessary but clearly dangerous.  "The defendant stopped on the nearside lane, at night, on an unlit section of road.  "Three seconds later, John Robinson collided with the rear of the lorry.

His car pushed it forward eight meters and ended up underneath."

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Mr Guiliani said it is not known why Mr Robinson, of Peterlee, County Durham, was unable to avoid the collision with the lorry but there was no evidence he was speeding or distracted in any way and had no alcohol or drugs in his system. Balan, of no fixed address, told police, with the assistance of a Romanian interpreter, he brought his vehicle to a stop "slowly, slowly slowly" because he had heard a noise and feared his load had come loose and wanted to find a safe place to check if there was a problem. Mr Guiliani added: "The Crown says the defendant made an unnecessary and dangerous stop in eight seconds, not because he thought there was something wrong with his load but because he had missed his junction.

"Contrary to what he told the police in interview, he didn't bring the lorry to a controlled stop over 300 meters but a very quick stop, over a distance of about 66 meters. "The defendant said he heard a noise which caused him to stop. There was nothing to indicate there was anything in the load that could have caused the noise."

Balan was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on February 7.

Lorry driver who suddenly stopped on A19 after missing turn-off guilty of causing death of driverJohn Terence Robinson who died in a collision near Washington

Mr Robinson's family said in a statement following the conviction: "No matter what the outcome of this trial would be, it will not change the fact that we have lost our lovely John and this will affect us for the rest of our lives. "We would like to give our thanks to John's friends and work colleagues. They have given us support which has been very touching.

"We have received personal heart-warming expressions about John from individual colleagues at Faltec, which is the company John was working for at the time. "Past colleagues of John's from Nissan and ZF have done the same. This means so much to us.

"Our thanks also go to our family and friends who have been praying for us throughout this time and sending messages of comfort to us. This has kept us going and we appreciate it so much. Thank you."

Lorry driver who suddenly stopped on A19 after missing turn-off guilty of causing death of driverMarcel Balan's lorry

Sergeant Steve Armstrong, of Northumbria Police, paid tribute to Mr Robinson's family and said the incident should act as a sobering reminder to all motorists.

"Our thoughts go out to Mr Robinson's family and friends who have had to endure an incredibly difficult 10 months since this tragic incident took place," Sgt Armstrong said. "Their pain was compounded as Balan opted to take this case to trial, with Mr Robinson's family forced to re-live the events of that night which saw their son cruelly taken away from them. "While no ruling can ever take away their anguish, I hope today's conviction can give them some kind of justice which allows them to continue with the next stage of their grieving process.

"Balan's actions that night were irresponsible and incredibly dangerous. He has caused a huge amount of pain to so many people as a result of his behaviour behind the wheel. "The laws of the road are not optional, they are not negotiable - they are there to keep people safe, and by ignoring them Balan directly put the lives of Mr Robinson and other road users in danger.

He now must face the consequences of his actions."

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