Army drivers not at fault for fatal A38 crash in Derby
Three Army truck drivers have been told they were not at fault for a crash that claimed the life of another driver on the A38, in a case the judge described as “an absolute tragedy”. Luke Clarke, Terrie Graham and James March were behind the wheels of three military HGVs travelling on the A38 northbound at around 1.45pm on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, which crashed into the back each other after the first braked hard to avoid colliding with standing traffic. The third truck was then hit from behind by a Co-op lorry driven by a 53-year-old man, who suffered severe injuries to his legs and pelvis after being trapped in his cab.
He sadly later died at Queens Medical Centre. The prosecution at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court acknowledged that the three military service members, whose defence said were left traumatised by what had happened, were not responsible for the Co-op driver’s death. stories about Derbyshire people
Rosanna McDaid, prosecuting, said: “The first truck braked sharply and only just managed to stop. The second and third Army trucks braked hard and collided into the back of each other. “It is not suggested in any way that the army drivers are responsible for the death of the Co-op driver.
“There were no defects with any of the trucks.” All three drivers, who were joined by army officials, each pleaded guilty to one count of driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or in a public place without due care and attention in the hearing in Courtroom 7. Andy Cash, representing Clarke, 38, said that his client – who was driving the first truck – had been left suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident while a representative for March, driving the third vehicle, required an operation on his leg which left him with a visible limp in court.
Mr Cash said: “My client has had a difficult decision to make. It is apparent that he was without any difficulty to stop his vehicle. “He pleaded guilty specifically as he has suffered severe mental anguish.
He said ‘there has not been a day or night that I had not wished that I had not deployed on that exercise’. “He has received counselling and attention for the consequences of the accident. He has particular concerns about the effect on his army career by all this.
“You are dealing with a man who has been extremely traumatised by what happened and for the first time only today has been able to view the video [of the accident].” All three are professional drivers who need their licenses to earn a living, the court heard, and all were of previous good character. The defence representative for March, 47, and Graham, 30, said: “They are not being held responsible for the outcome [but] they are very remorseful.
“It has affected them very deeply, to know that the driver behind sadly lost his life. They are people of previous good character. “They are still employed with the army, but matters are under review depending on the outcome of the hearing today.”
Both carriageways on the road were closed at the A516 Uttoxeter New Road and B5020 junction, with the crash taking place between the A516 and the Royal Derby Hospital trunk road near Mickleover. The road was closed for several hours and long delays and queues had been reported with huge tailbacks stretching back to Burton. The southbound carriageway was reopened at around 7.30pm, but the northbound carriageway was not fully reopened until past 10pm, over eight hours after the crash.
Sentencing March and Graham, who were dealt with in a separate hearing to Clarke, District Judge Jonathan Taaffe said it was by the “grace of God” that other road users did not make the same mistake as the army drivers and described the event as a “momentary lapse”. He said: “Let me start by saying this case is an absolute tragedy. “There has been, I’m afraid, an everyday event on the roads and regretfully it has led to a fatality and the driver of the Co-op vehicle who is deceased is perhaps unfortunate, but in no way are you to blame for that.
“The situation is that this is down to the grace of God. “Your standard of driving is expected to be perhaps more than the average road user. Yourself and your colleagues came upon stationary traffic, had to brake sharply and unfortunately a concertina effect then took place.
“I have considerable sympathy for your position in relation to this case and do not say that your bad driving caused this collision.” Sentencing Clarke, Judge Taaffe added: “I indicated to your two colleagues that I have considerable sympathy for your position in this matter. “It is at the low end of driving without due care and attention.
The consequences of this incident have been catastrophic for both yourself and your colleagues in terms of the post-traumatic stress that you have suffered as a result of this. “I hope my comments are relayed back [to the military]. I take the view that it was a momentary lapse.”
Clarke, of Sycamore Grove, Rugby; Graham, of Blueberry Rise, Northampton and March, of Marlcroft, Coventry, were all given four penalty points and each ordered to pay a GBP300 fine, GBP85 in costs and a GBP34 victim surcharge.