A lorry driver who ploughed into a queue of traffic when he lost concentration caused a six vehicle crash in which two people died and two drivers were seriously injured.
Martyn Graham, 58, hit the first vehicle at 56 mph, without braking at all. A webcam in his cab showed the brake lights ahead for 17 seconds before the collision.
But the cause of his inattention remains a mystery. He was not using a mobile phone, was not tired or ill, and had driven some 2 million miles over the previous years without incident.
However the accident on the Bedford bypass (A412) in January last year had had devastating consequences for the people involved said Judge Philip Bartle QC.
Graham, a 6'4", 19 stone former tank driver in the army, pleaded guilty at Luton Crown Court on Friday to two charges of causing death by dangerous driving and two charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He was jailed for 56 months and banned from driving for five years.
Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver said the couple who died were grandparents Martin Spratt, 70 and his wife Evelyn, 68, who were both retired but fit and active. They lived in Buckden, Cambridgeshire. Mrs Spratt died at the scene trapped in their Toyota Auris and her husband died when he arrived at hospital.
Their daughter said in a statement that she could not find words to describe the loss the family felt.
Mrs Davina Stubbs, 54, from Bedford received serious injuries and had to be cut free from her Vauxhall Corsa. She now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress. She said her 'mind, body and spirit' had been broken by the crash and her damaged hand prevents her hobby of piano playing.
Scaffolder, Danny Delasalle, 32 from Stevenage, was driving a Transit van loaded with scaffolding poles. His vehicle was the first to be struck and was sandwiched into the other vehicles before crashing into a tree on the verge. He came round to find his brother beside him and did not know whether he was alive or dead.
In the event his brother was not seriously hurt but Danny had had to wear a neck brace for three-and-a half-months and his earning potential had suffered greatly.
A Scandia HGV lorry and Audi A6 were also involved in the aftermath. The vehicles were badly damaged but the drivers not seriously injured.
Mr Cleaver described the sequence of the accident which happened in good weather shortly after 2pm.
He said a car had broken down on the by pass. on the eastern section near the village of Elstow. Police had cordoned it off, so traffic had to merge into one lane to pass the obstruction.
The vehicles were either stationary or moving slowly when Graham's Mercedes tractor lorry ploughed into the Transit. That in turn hit the Toyota with considerable force. It spun round and was extensively damaged, with the occupants trapped inside.
The Transit then hit the Corsa, which was pushed into the front of another lorry.
The Transit mounted the verge, and most probably struck a tree.
Meanwhile the Mercedes lorry also mounted the verge and toppled onto its side. It had been towing a grain hopper and its load of dried peas spilt all over the road.
A collision report said Mr Graham had not reacted or braked at all. "The driver had a severe lack of concentration or was distracted by something in his cab."
Dundee born Mr Graham, from Canterbury Road, Stevenage, said later he had no memory of the events leading up to the accident and could not explain why he had not braked.
Mr Ian Bridge, defending, said the defendant was thoroughly remorseful and thought of the accident every day and had sleepless nights.
He said: "If he could he would willingly take the place of those who died or were seriously injured."
The barrister said if he had braked six seconds before the crash he could have stopped, adding: "Who amongst us cannot say we don't lose concentration for a moment or two?"
Judge Bartle said: "It is quite clear and indisputable he was not concentrating or was distracted causing him to take his eyes off the view ahead. There is no evidence he was using a mobile phone."