Two lorry drivers facing jail after M1 pile-up tragedy

Two lorry drivers are facing jail after eight people were killed when their minibus was crushed in a motorway pile-up.

The passengers had been on their way to Disneyland when they died alongside their driver in the early morning crash on the M1 on the August bank holiday weekend last year.

Four other passengers were left seriously injured when the vehicle was forced into and under a lorry which driver Ryszard Masierak had stopped in the slow lane of the motorway.

Minibus driver Cyriac Joseph was waiting with his hazard lights on for the chance to go around Masierak's lorry when he was hit by another lorry, driven by David Wagstaff.

Wagstaff, who was on a hands free call and in cruise control at 56mph, ploughed into the minibus, which had been taking the passengers from Nottingham to London to catch a coach to Disneyland.

Masierak's vehicle sat stationary on the motorway for 12 minutes on August 26, despite miles of hard shoulder being available to him.

Polish national Ryszard Masierak (Steve Parsons/PA)
Polish national Ryszard Masierak (Steve Parsons/PA)

The three-lane motorway was busier than usual when the collision happened at around 3am because it was a bank holiday weekend, the men's trial heard.

Masierak had described himself to the jury as a "careful driver" and claimed he had attempted to pull over onto the hard shoulder as he felt unwell, but passed out and could not remember anything.

He denied he was drunk, but a breath test at the scene and later at a police station showed he was "likely to have been in the region of twice the legal limit" at the time of the collision, the court heard.

The 31-year-old Polish national, of Evesham, Worcestershire, was found guilty on Tuesday of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous
driving.

Fed Ex driver Wagstaff held his head in his hands after he was cleared of the same charges at Reading Crown Court on Wednesday.

He had already pleaded guilty to eight charges of causing death by careless driving and four counts of careless driving.

Following Tuesday's verdicts, the jury was no longer required to consider alternative charges against Masierak of causing death by careless driving, while over the prescribed alcohol limit.

Court artist sketch of Ryszard Masierak (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Court artist sketch of Ryszard Masierak (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Wagstaff, 54, had been a HGV driver for 12 years with a clean licence until the crash.

He told the jury at the trial, which lasted a little under two weeks, that he could not remember what happened and put it down to a "lack of concentration".

He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Joseph's widow was in court for the verdicts.

Judge Francis Sheridan praised the families of the deceased for their behaviour throughout the legal proceedings.

He said: "I pay tribute to their constant dignity in a dreadful case with very sad, tragic consequences."

He also praised the jury for their dedication in what he described as a "very emotional and heartbreaking" case.

Six men and two women were killed in the crash.

Mr Joseph, from Nottingham, died alongside Panneerselvam Annamalai, Rishi Ranjeev Kumar, Vivek Baskaran, Lavanyalakshmi Seetharaman, Karthikeyan Pugalur Ramasubramanian, Subramaniyan Arachelvan and Tamilmani Arachelvan, all from India.

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, was released on continuing bail.

He will be sentenced alongside Masierak at Aylesbury Crown Court on March 23.

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