Lorry driver accused over fatal crash ‘appeared normal at start of shift’
Ryszard Masierak denies the charges over the crash on the M1 near Milton Keynes in August in which eight people died.
A lorry driver accused of being twice the drink-drive limit and causing the death of eight people in a crash when he stopped in the slow lane of the M1 appeared “normal” when he started his shift, a court has heard.
Polish national Ryszard Masierak, 32, was allegedly stationary for 12 minutes at around 3am on August 26 2017, despite there being miles of hard shoulder available.
His lorry caused an obstruction on the motorway, forcing others to slow before moving around him, Reading Crown Court heard.
As minibus driver Cyriac Joseph waited with his hazard lights on for a chance to go around the heavy goods vehicle, a second lorry driven by David Wagstaff, 54, smashed into the back of the van, forcing it into and under Masierak’s lorry, jurors heard.
Masierak’s night shift supervisor at AIM Logistics, Mariusz Mazurek, told the court that when the driver signed in for his shift everything seemed fine.
Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC suggested: “You told the police he appeared normal that evening.”
Mr Mazurek replied: “Yes.”
Jurors heard that Masierak’s first job of the night was at 11pm and he spoke with his supervisor at around midnight.
Mr Saxby asked: “Did he (Masierak) at any point in that conversation tell you that he had any problems, that he was unwell or tired, or anything like that?”
Mr Mazurek said “no”.
He also told jurors that when Masierak started working for the company in June last year he would have been given an induction and information on health and safety.
Mr Mazurek added that it was forbidden for employees to consume illegal drugs, or alcohol, while at work.
The court also heard from lorry driver Matthew Norwood, who spotted Masierak’s lorry stopped in the slow lane as he took the slip lane to junction 14.
Mr Norwood said: “I looked over in disbelief, to see if the driver needed help, if he had broken down.
“There was no movement in the cab. I would expect someone to be in the cab, talking to someone on the phone if they had broken down.”
Mr Norwood, who has been a lorry driver for three years, added he had not experienced a stationary vehicle in the slow lane before.
Jurors also heard from another driver, Jared Peel, who had to go around Masierak’s HGV in order to avoid a collision – as caught on dash-cam footage shown to the jury.
Asked why he pressed his horn as he manoeuvred, he replied: “To try to get his attention, really.
“To warn him that what he was doing was dangerous.”
On Thursday the jury was told the crash was “an entirely avoidable collision, with the most catastrophic and tragic of consequences”.
The court has heard that Wagstaff was on a hands-free call when he smashed into Mr Joseph’s minibus as it waited to pull around Masierak’s lorry.
Mr Joseph and seven of his Indian passengers – en route to London from Nottingham to catch a coach to Disneyland – were killed in the collision on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend.
The fatalities, five men and two women, were Panneerselvam Annamalai, Rishi Ranjeev Kumar, Vivek Baskaran, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, Subramaniyan Arachelvan and Tamilmani Arachelvan.
Four other minibus passengers, including a four-year-old girl, were seriously injured in the collision on the southbound M1, near Milton Keynes.
Wagstaff, from Stoke, has pleaded guilty to eight charges of causing death by careless driving, and four counts of careless driving.
Masierak and Wagstaff both deny eight counts each of causing death by dangerous driving, and four counts each of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Masierak, of Evesham, Worcestershire, faces a further eight charges of causing death by careless driving, while over the prescribed alcohol limit.
It is alleged that he had 55 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
Forensic toxicologist Nigel Lowe told jurors on Friday that was the alcohol reading at the police station at around 5.30am.
He suggested that in back calculation, to the time of the crash, there could have been between 62 and 89 micrograms per 100 millilitres of blood, and based on that he estimated it was 74 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath.
However, Mr Lowe conceded that if alcohol had been consumed an hour before the crash, then he may have overestimated.
Jurors were read a statement from a lorry driver who saw Masierak driving the wrong way around a roundabout near the M6 junction 2 before the crash.
Dennis Badham said: “I looked on to the roundabout and to my surprise I could see a lorry travelling the wrong way around the roundabout towards me.
“I noticed a small passenger car also on the roundabout flashing at the lorry as if to warn the lorry it was going the wrong way.”
He described Masierak’s lorry as having AIM written on it.