A lorry driver who caused a pile-up which left a mother paralysed and a university student with serious injuries was jailed this week for three years.
Nicholas Corley, 26, who was travelling at 6mph over the limit failed to spot a line of stationary traffic until it was too late.
His Volvo tipper lorry, which was filled with 32,100 kilos of aggregate, was described by the judge as being like a bowling ball knocking down skittles.
He braked just 22 metres from the queue on the A421 between Milton Keynes and Bedford and crashed into the back of a Ford KA, driven by 19-year-old Bedfordshire university student Aimee Clark.
The tipper lorry then hit a black Mercedes ML250 4x4 driven by Christy Blake, who had two children in child seats.
Prosecutor Nigel Ogborne told Luton Crown Court Mrs Blake, who is now 34, was left paralysed. He said: “She is most likely to remain paralysed and need electric wheelchairs and personal care for rest of her life.”
Her children escaped unharmed.
Corley, 26, of Falcon Crescent, Flitwick, appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to two charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The crash happened at 10.40am in January last year on the single carriageway A421 between Magna Park, Kingston, Milton Keynes and junction 13 of the M1.
Aimee’s KA was immediately ahead of Corley’s lorry heading towards the motorway junction. Christy Blake, who runs a hairdressing business, was travelling in the opposite direction, the court heard.
An Audi A3 had come to a stop to turn right on to the Hayfield Business Park and other cars, a Ford Focus, Suzuki Vitara, Mercedes C220 and the Ford KA, driven by Aimee, slowed down and came to a stop.
Mr Ogborne said: “The road is governed by 60mph limit for cars and 50mph for goods vehicles. The road was in good condition and it was daylight. The weather was fine. There was a very gentle breeze. The visibility was good.
“All the vehicles involved were in good state of mechanical repair.
“The Mercedes driven by Christy Blake was travelling at 47 to 49 mph.”
Mr Ogborne said Corley was travelling towards the queue of traffic. His tacograph shows he was travelling at 56 miles per hour. The speed limit for his vehicle was 50 and he had 32,100 kilos of aggregate on board.
Corley, who was heading to a nearby depot at Aspley Guise, was 22 metres from the rear of Aimee’s KA when he applied an emergency brake and steered to the offside.
Mr Ogborne said: “He collides with Aimee’s vehicle which was punched forward and rotated in an anti-clockwise direction and offside hits rear nearside of vehicle 4 Mercedes 220 in front of her. The KA then rotates clockwise and comes to rest on grass verge.
“Mr Corley’s lorry moves into westbound carriageway collided with rear offside of Mercedes C220 and pushes that towards the northside of the road.
“Christy Blake’s Mercedes approached, by then the lorry was travelling at about 30 mph going down to 25mph and Christy’s vehicle is travelling 49 mph to 47 mph.”
The lorry was said to have also “punched” Christy’s vehicle backwards, sending it spinning onto the verge. It carried on, hitting the rear of the Vitara that in turn crashed into the Focus.
Corley was arrested and in a police interview said he believed he skidded on ice, but Mr Ogborne said no other drivers reported ice.
The prosecutor said: “He was in an elevated cab. He should have been aware of situation in front of him. There were slow moving vehicles ahead that would have had brake lights on.
“It appears he had not reacted to those or vehicles ahead getting larger in his vision.”
“There were no issues with health or fitness of drivers. No issues with mobile phones or drugs or drink.
“The cause of the collision was that Mr Corley failed to react to the slow or stationary vehicles ahead of him over a significantly long period in an area he is familiar with.
“As there is no explanation given by him, it is due to either severe lack of concentration or being distracted in his cab.”
In a victim personal statement, Ms Blake said she now has permanent carers and after being treated at Stoke Mandeville hospital, lives in a small bungalow provided by Bedford Pilgrims Housing Association. She said: “I will need this level of care for the rest of my life. None of my injuries will get better. I don’t care what happens to Nicholas Corley, it will never be justice for what he has done to me.”
Aimee Clarke suffered a deep cut to her right eyebrow that affected her vision as well as cuts to the back of her head and right tip of the tongue. Aimee, now 20, said: “I was unconscious trapped by the car door in severe pain. I woke up and was covered in blood, my white top was red.”
She has a permanent scar and now needs to wear glasses.
Defending, Alexander Stein said: “Mr Corley is truly sorry for the terrible harm he has caused. He has written personal letters to victims. There is genuine remorse.
“He accepts he must have lost concentration and cannot explain why. He accepts he should have reacted and he didn’t.”
He said he was ‘a hard working young man’ who had a clean licence who now suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Judge Nigel Lithman QC described what happened as “carnage.” He said: “The lorry thundered its way down the road at too great a speed.”
He told Corley: “What happened on the morning of January 5 last year is as simple as it is terrible.”
He said it was not melodramatic to say that his lorry that was full of aggregate had “the effect of a vehicle the size of a bowling ball knocking down skittles.”
He said he had been “playing Russian roulette with people’s life.”
The judge added: “This is a case in which there have been devastating consequences. I accept you have shown remorse but your driving at speed for no good reason was wholly inappropriate for the circumstances.”
He said he had devastated Christy Blake’s life.
The judge also banned him from driving for 5 years.