Two men have been jailed today for their involvement in a collision in which eight people died on the M1 motorway near Newport Pagnell.
Ryszard Masierak, aged 32, of Barnards Close, Evesham, Worcestershire, was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment at Aylesbury Crown Court.
He was found guilty on Tuesday March 6 by unanimous jury of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, following a trial which took place at Reading Crown Court. Masierak was also banned from driving for a period of 17 years.
David Wagstaff, aged 54, of Derwent Street, Stoke-on-Trent, was sentenced to three years' and four months imprisonment for eight counts of causing death by careless driving. He pleaded guilty to these offences at Aylesbury Crown Court on 27 October 2017. Wagstaff was also disqualified from dirving for five years and seven months and will be subject to an extended driving test.
He was acquitted of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving following the trial which concluded on Wednesday March 7.
At around 3am on Saturday August 26 last year Masierak had been driving a heavy goods vehicle while over the alcohol limit on the M1 southbound near Newport Pagnell. He stopped his lorry in lane one of the carriageway where he remained for 12 minutes, causing an obstruction.
A group of family and friends was travelling in a minibus on their way to a trip around Europe.
The minibus approached Masierak's stationary HGV in lane one, and stopped behind it, unable to pull in to lane two to overtake due to traffic.
Meanwhile Wagstaff was driving a lorry which approached the scene. He was talking on his mobile phone using hands free while on cruise control. He collided with the stationary vehicles while travelling at 56mph, pushing the minibus under Masierak's lorry.
Eight people died at the scene. They were:
Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, aged 33, and his wife, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, aged 32, who were from the Alwarthirunagar area of Chennai, India.
Panneerselvam Annamalai, aged 63, from the Nagar area of Chennai, India.
Subramaniyan Arachelvan, aged 58, and his wife Tamilmani Arachelvan, aged 50, from the Saket area of Delhi, India.
Vivek Baskaran, aged 26, from the Avaiyambalpuram area of Mayiladuthurai, India.
Rishi Rajeev Kumar, aged 27, from Kerala, India.
The minibus driver Cyriac Joseph, aged 52, who lived in Nottingham.
Masierak and Wagstaff were both arrested on the day of the collision and charged the following day.
Chief Inspector Andy Storey, of the Joint Operations Unit for Roads Policing, said: "The impact that the actions of Masierak and Wagstaff have had on the family and friends of those who died and those who were seriously injured is truly devastating. Our thoughts remain with them as always.
"On that day, a Saturday at the start of the August bank holiday weekend, Masierak chose to drive a lorry whilst over the alcohol limit. Prior to the collision Masierak's professional driving licence had also been revoked so he should not have been driving a lorry on that day. What followed was a chain of events with tragic results. Masierak fell asleep in a live lane of the motorway.
"A group of family and friends was travelling in a minibus; looking forward to embarking on a trip around Europe. The minibus approached Masierak's stationary vehicle in lane one, and stopped behind it.
"Meanwhile Wagstaff was driving a lorry which approached the scene. He was talking on his mobile phone using hands free but this distracted him to the extent he did not notice the vehicles ahead of him. He collided with them at a speed of approximately 56mph.
"The consequences were horrific and totally avoidable but thankfully the driving of Maseirak and Wagstaff is not reflective of the standard of HGV drivers who travel safely on our roads every day.
"I hope that the convictions and today's sentencing provide a small measure of closure to those who survived and for the families whose loved ones died. I hope it will serve as a deterrent to others who drive on our roads.
"The message from this case is that people should not drive whilst under the influence of alcohol or durgs, and they should not drive whilst using a mobile phone even whilst on hands free, as quite simply it kills."
Louise Attrill, Senior Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, said: "This incident, caused by driver error of one drink driver and the prolonged inattention of another, resulted in a tragic waste of life and could have been avoided.
"The stationary vehicles were clearly visible to Wagstaff for a considerable time, but he was oblivious to the approaching hazard. This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to be alert when driving. Holding a driving licence brings with it a high degree of responsibility that should always be at the forefront of every driver's mind.
"It is unimaginable to think of the emotional impact that this incident will have on the families and friends of the deceased, and those injured. I hope that those injured continue with their recovery. I also hope that the convictions and today's sentences will in some way help all those concerned to come to terms with this tragic event. My thoughts are very much with them all at this time."