Lorry driver found guilty after fatal M1 crash in Milton Keynes

A drunken lorry driver who stopped in the middle of the motorway before a minibus was crushed beneath his vehicle was facing jail tonight.

Tuesday, 6th March 2018, 4:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th March 2018, 6:04 pm

A jury unanimously found Ryszard Masierak guilty of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

They had been told how Masierak had been drinking cans of cider when he parked for 12 minutes on lane one of the M1 motorway, sparking the horrific crash near Newport Pagnell.

No verdicts were returned on a second trucker, FedEx driver David Wagstaff, who was accused of talking to a colleague on his hands-free mobile phone for an hour and struck the minibus and Masierak’s stationary lorry.

A catastrophic set of circumstances led to the multiple death crash, the jury had been told.

Masierak had been drinking and driving erratically before stopping his lorry for 12 minutes in the middle of the carriageway near Newport Pagnell. He left his rear lights illuminated, but ignored the hard shoulder where he could have stopped safely.

The minibus, driven by Cyriac Joseph, came across Polish-born Masierak’s lorry and pulled up safely behind it with its hazard lights on, and waited for a chance to overtake after becoming ‘baulked’.

Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC told the jury that four people were killed instantly and the others died in hospital.

Today, Judge Francis Sheridan, sitting at Reading Crown Court, told Masierak that he could be sentenced tomorrow before remanding him in custody.

The trlal had heard Masierak stopped his HGV in the slow lane after travelling for a period of time very slowly.

The jury was also told how earlier in the evening other drivers had spotted Masierak driving in an “erratic” manner, with one lorry driver seeing him travelling the wrong way around a roundabout and into oncoming traffic on a slip road.

Masierak and Wagstaff had both denied eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving, although the latter had admitted to eight counts of causing death by careless driving following the August Bank Holiday tragedy.

Masierak was unanimously found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving while over the prescribed alcohol limit, despite telling jurors he was not drunk.

CCTV and dashcam footage of Mr Joseph and his passengers’ final moments were shown to the jury.

It showed the minibus waiting with its hazard lights on for the chance to go past the lorry, only seconds later for it to be smashed into by a Fed Ex lorry being driven by Wagstaff.

Wagstaff had been an HGV driver for 12 years with a clean licence until the crash and had told the jury: “I cannot remember anything at all. I can recall the aftermath.”

His defence counsel had claimed he was suffering from “inattentional blindness” - a phenomenon that happens when someone was concentrating on something else, like a mobile phone conversation.

The married father-of-one, who appeared upset through parts of his evidence, has since had counselling and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a police interview, Wagstaff, of Derwent Street in Stoke-on-Trent said he “never expected” to catch up to the minibus and lorry, saying “lack of concentration, that’s all I can say”.

When police arrived at the “catastrophic” scene, Masierak denied he was the driver of the lorry, something he told jurors was a comment aimed at Wagstaff’s lorry. Two empty cans of cider were also found in his cab.

Masierak, of Barnards Close, Evesham, Worcestershire, had told jurors during the trial that he was a “careful driver” and denied he was drunk.

He also said he could remember details of the crash and had stopped on the hard shoulder because he was sweating, felt weakness and had a headache.

He admitted he had drunk alcohol before starting his delivery shift but said he was not drunk.

However, the prosecution refuted this and said 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.

Speaking through a Polish interpreter he said his vision became blurry and felt faint as he attempted to stop on the hard shoulder.

After slowing the lorry and pulling the handbrake, Masierak claimed to have fallen to the floor between the passenger seat and driver’s seat before losing consciousness.

The eight people killed - six men and two women- included couple Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, aged 33 years and wife Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, aged 32 years, who were from the Alwarthirunagar area of Chennai, India.

Subramaniyan Arachelvan, aged 58 years, and his wife Tamilmani Arachelvan, aged 50 years, from the Saket area of Dehli, India were another couple who lost their lives in the collision.

Also killed were 63-year-old Panneerselvam Annamalai from the Nagar area of Chennai, India, 26-year-old Vivek Baskaran from the Avaiyambalpuram area of Mayiladuthurai, India, and 27-year-old Rishi Rajeev Kumar from Kerala, India.

Four others, including a four-year-old girl, were seriously injured.

The case at Reading Crown Court was adjourned until tomorrow.