A 30-year-old lorry driver has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment at Reading Crown Court today after being convicted of causing the deaths of a mother and three children in a crash on the A34 while he was using his mobile phone.
Tomasz Kroker, from Tarjan Walk, Andover, Hampshire, pleaded guilty at the same court on 10 October to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
He was sentenced today to 10 years’ imprisonment for each count of death by dangerous driving and four years’ imprisonment for causing serious injury by dangerous driving. All of the sentences will run concurrently. He was also disqualified from driving for seven years.
Kroker was arrested on 10 August and charged on 8 September.
Police officers were called to a report of a collision on the northbound carriageway of the A34 between the East Ilsley and West Ilsley junctions shortly after 5.10pm on 10 August.
A slow moving articulated lorry had caused a tailback. Two other lorries and four smaller vehicles were all stationary behind it. A fourth lorry driven by Kroker drove into the back of the vehicles at approximately 50mph.
Tracy Houghton, aged 45, from Dunstable, and the three children travelling in the car with her – her two sons Josh Houghton aged 11 and Ethan Houghton aged 13 and her step-daughter Aimee Goldsmith, aged 11 - all died at the scene.
A further five people were injured in the collision.
Det Sgt Gavin Collier, from the Serious Injury Collision Unit, said “This was a truly devastating case where a mother and three children lost their lives and a man was seriously injured. The most tragic element of this incident is that it was avoidable. Tomasz Kroker was looking at his mobile phone while driving, this needless and avoidable act has resulted in the most devastating and horrific circumstances.
“No sentence will bring back Tracy, Aimee, Josh and Ethan but their families have asked that we reinforce how dangerous it is to use a mobile phone while driving.”
Gavin Hernandez, District Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “This case involved a terrible incident, which led to the untimely deaths of four members of the same family and the serious injury of a man on the A34 in August. This is a tragic waste of these lives and could have been avoided.
“This was not just a tragic accident, but a death caused by Kroker’s inattention and distraction.The slow moving vehicles were clearly visible to Kroker for a considerable time, and the three lorries were stationary for 16 seconds prior to the collision, but Kroker was oblivious to the approaching danger. This is evident from the dash cam footage, which shows the flashing hazard lights ahead on one of the vehicles and Kroker looking down at the mobile phone he is holding in his left hand. Only 0.75 seconds before impact does he look up with sudden horror on his face, but it was too late for him to take any avoiding action.
“Kroker initially claimed at the scene that his brakes had failed and answered ‘no comment’ to two police interviews, but, when confronted with the dash cam footage he admitted he had been playing with his mobile phone. On Monday, 10 October 2016, at Reading Crown Court, due to the strength of evidence against him, and recognising that justice had caught up with him, he pleaded guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
“This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to be alert and prepared for unexpected or challenging driving conditions. Holding a driving licence brings with it a high degree of responsibility that should always be at the forefront of every driver’s mind. Mobile phones must not be used by drivers, under any circumstances, as they are a lethal distraction, which, as this case demonstrates, leads to untold misery.
“It is unimaginable to think of the emotional impact that this incident will have on the man and teenage boy, who witnessed, at close range, the deaths of four members of their own family. I hope that the conviction and today’s sentence will in some way help them, their family and friends come to terms with this tragic event. I also hope that those injured continue with their recovery. My thoughts are very much with them all at this time.”