Hero pilot killed by HGV driver after stopping to call 999 about crash
A lorry driver who killed a hero RAF helicopter pilot because he was distracted by talking to his mum on a hands-free phone has been jailed. Malcolm Clarkson, from Southport, ploughed his HGV into the back of Scott McConnell who had stopped his VW Golf with his hazard lights on to help another driver who had crashed. Sergeant McConnell was driving northbound on the M40 near Warwick at 10.15pm on November 19, 2019, when he saw a white van collide with a Royal Mail lorry.
Sergeant McConnell, 26, who had just qualified as an RAF helicopter pilot, was calling 999 when Clarkson smashed into the back of his car at 61mph. Sgt McConnell was rushed to hospital with horrific neck and head injuries but died hours later. Clarkson, 44, was jailed for three-and-a-half years after he admitted causing death by dangerous driving.
Jailing him at Warwick Crown Court, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “HGV drivers like you owe a particular responsibility to other road-users because an error in their control can be so catastrophic. “Scott McConnell had only recently graduated from the Defence Helicopter Flying School, and was only days away from fulfilling his ambition by taking up a position as a member of the aircrew on a Chinook helicopter. “He pulled over behind the stricken van and positioned his car and put his hazard lights on.
“His action in showing consideration for other road-users was entirely in character. “A student was following you, and his view of the road was poorer, but he saw Mr McConnell’s hazard lights. “You plainly should have had a better view, but you did not seek to slow your vehicle or to move over.
“In fact you were accelerating, and it was less than a second before colliding with Mr McConnell’s vehicle that you applied your brakes. “You were on the phone, hands-free, to your mother. “I am quite satisfied that was at least a factor in taking your attention away from the road.
“He was a young man at the very start of his adult life, and that life has been taken away from him, and his family have been left with their anger and pan and grief. “I have no doubt you are very sorry, but nothing you can do and nothing I can do can take away the pain the family suffers and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.” Clarkson was also banned from driving for six years and nine months.
The court heard Clarkson only braked 24m (78ft) before ploughing into Sgt McConnell’s car.
Sergeant Scott McConnell (Image: MOD CROWN COPYRIGHT 2019/RAF)
Grace Ong, prosecuting, said: “At the time 26-year-old Mr McConnell was an air crew sergeant in the RAF, having graduated from the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury, and was due to begin a posting in Chinook helicopter at RAF Benson. “On 19 November 2019 at 10.15pm a white van driven by Colin Beckett collided with a Royal Mail lorry on the M40 northbound near to Warwick Services between junctions 12 and 13. “The lorry pulled onto the hard shoulder, but the van was stationary in lane one when Mr McConnell came on the scene.
“He pulled up behind the van so his VW Golf was half on the hard shoulder and half in lane one, and put his hazard lights on to warn other drivers as he went to check on Mr Beckett. “He then returned to his car and sat in the passenger seat to call the emergency services. “The call lasted three minutes and 15 seconds before a Scania HGV driven by Clarkson ploughed into the back of the car, which had been perfectly visible to other drivers.
“It was found that as he approached the scene Clarkson, who was on his phone hands-free to his mother, had been doing 61mph – and he was just 24 metres from the Golf when he braked. “It was far too late, and the artic hit the car, sending it rotating into the back of the white van before both of them ended up on the hard shoulder.”
The court heard Clarkson had previous convictions for offences including falsifying his mileage and supplying drugs. Andrew Nuttall, defending, said: “The defendant fully accepts his guilt.
He never wanted to hurt anyone. “He doesn’t actually know what happened to him, but accepts it was his fault. “The consequence of his driving will live with him for ever.
He cannot do anything other than say over and over again that he is sorry. “He recognises he will go to custody, and he feels that it is right that he should be punished.” For the latest news and breaking news visit the LancsLive website.
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