A former footballer has been jailed for five years after he killed a couple in a motorway crash while he was distracted on his phone.
Richard and Angela Wong, from Northenden, Manchester, were returning home from a caravan in Wales they had just bought on their retirement when Steven Bennett, drove into the back of their car in his 10-tonne lorry.
Bennett, 29, who played a handful of games for Barnsley FC, collided with a stationary queue of eight vehicles on the M56 near Warrington, Cheshire, while travelling at about 54mph on September 19 2019.
The Toyota Avensis driven by Mrs Wong, 56, then shunted into the other vehicles in the queue as five others suffered slight injuries.
Mrs Wong was pronounced dead at the scene while her husband, aged 62, died three days later.
Bennett initially told police he had been distracted by a bird flying past the screen of the lorry, said prosecutors.
But examination of his phone showed that in the moments leading up to the collision he had been handling it and had plugged and unplugged the charger twice.
Bennett, of Manor Crescent, Grimethorpe, Barnsley, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced on Thursday at Chester Crown Court.
He was also banned from driving for four years and ordered to undertake an extended retest, said the Crown Prosecution Service.
Following their deaths, the family said the Wongs, who had a son and daughter, together with two grandchildren, were a “devoted couple” who had been married for 37 years and “touched the hearts and enriched the lives of everyone who knew them”.
In a victim personal statement, their daughter Charlotte told the court: “I am a different person to the one I was before September 19 2019, the day my parents were ripped from my life, my heart and my future.
“To quantify their loss is like trying to quantify the size of the black hole, it is endless and bleak.
“The pain I feel every day is like carrying a weight that never eases.”
Following sentencing, District Crown Prosecutor Victoria Colvin, of CPS Mersey Cheshire said: “Mr and Mrs Wong were a devoted couple with lots of family and friends and had so much to live for.
“Their lives were cut short by the actions of Steven Bennett.
“When we are behind the wheel of a vehicle, we carry a big responsibility and our actions can cause dreadful consequences, as we have seen in this case.”
Sergeant Andrew Dennison, of Cheshire Police, added: “This collision could have been easily been avoided, Bennett had a clear view of the traffic ahead of him at least 20 seconds before he hit the stationary traffic.
“But sadly he was grossly inattentive on the approach to this clear hazard.”