Posted on Tuesday 11 January 2022
A lorry driver who caused a collision which killed three people after using his mobile phone at the wheel has been jailed.
Ion Onut was using the web browser on his phone when he crashed his Scania truck into slow moving traffic on the northbound carriageway of the A1(M) last July.
Onut’s vehicle was travelling at 58mph when it struck another HGV and four cars before coming to rest at the central reservation and bursting into flames.
The 41-year-old was rescued from his burning cab by members of the public and later arrested by police at the scene.
Forensic examinations of his mobile phone found that Onut, of Galashiels, in Scotland, had been repeatedly using the device’s web browser throughout his journey from Cambridgeshire right up until the time of the collision, which happened at 6.18pm at Bowburn on July 15.
He was charged with three counts of causing death by dangerous driving, which he admitted, and was jailed for eight years and ten months. He was also disqualified from driving for more than 14 years.
Paul Mullen, 51, who was driving a Toyota Hilux, and Elaine Sullivan, 59 and David Daglish, 57, who were in a Vauxhall Crossland all tragically died as a result of the collision.
In a victim personal statement read out in court, Elaine’s son and David’s stepson, Junior Sullivan, said: “Nothing could prepare me for being woken up to be told that my mam and dad had been killed in a car crash. It’s impossible for me to describe what went through my head at that moment, only that everything that was perfect about my life suddenly no longer existed. In that very moment my world had shattered and I became an empty shell. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move.
“People tell you it’s okay to be upset and cry or to be angry, and they always say ‘if there’s anything I can do’ but what could anyone possibly do? There’s no how-to guide for dealing with the loss of both of your parents. For losing the only family you have. For losing the people who quite literally sacrificed everything to give you the best possible chances.
“With all of that said, I cling to the hope that something good can come from the pain and suffering we all continue to feel. The idea that this can be seen by many as a reminder as to the consequences of these actions and the hope it can prevent just one person or one family from experiencing what have experienced, is what keeps me going in the darkest moments.”
Orlaigh Mullen, Paul’s daughter, said: “It’s difficult to put into words how much we miss our dad – losing a parent is something you think will never happen, you always think that they are invincible.
“My dad was always there for us growing up. We looked up to him, he was the hardest working man I have ever met and ever will meet. He worked so hard for all of us.
“I miss him coming home every Friday night and shouting ‘hello’ when he came through the door and giving us all a big hug.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Sergeant Catherine Iley, from Durham Constabulary, said: “This was a truly harrowing incident for everyone involved and our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Elaine, David, and Paul.
“They have shown great dignity throughout the course of this investigation and have assisted wherever they can, all while trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones in such devastating circumstances.
“It was incredibly distressing and upsetting for those who witnessed the collision, and for the emergency responders, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics, who attended the scene. The horror of what they witnessed that day will no doubt remain with them for many years to come.
“Our sincere thanks must go to everyone who helped at the scene. This also includes members of the public, Highways England, and soldiers from the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery based in North Yorkshire who assisted at the scene after being caught up in the resulting traffic jam.
“Mr Onut has admitted his guilt and pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity and while he has shown remorse for his actions, no amount of remorse will bring Elaine, David, and Paul back.
“This case serves as a dreadful warning of what can happen when drivers use a mobile phone or device whilst behind the wheel of a vehicle – irrespective of the purpose of that use, they are a distraction and as shown in this case, that distraction could have devastating and wide reaching consequences.”