Tractor driver is jailed for more than three years for causing fatal A14 crash

Mick Rayner, who died in the crash near the Orwell Bridge Picture: FAMILY/SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Mick Rayner, who died in the crash near the Orwell Bridge Picture: FAMILY/SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Archant

A tractor driver who crashed into a stationary vehicle on the A14 and killed a father-of-four has been jailed for more than three years.

The Orwell Bridge , close to where Mick Rayner was killed Picture: ARCHANT

The Orwell Bridge , close to where Mick Rayner was killed Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Gregg Brown

Christopher Duerden, 26, of Bridge Street, Bungay, was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court today after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving on November 13.

Duerden was driving a was driving a JCB Fastrac tractor and agricultural trailer on the eastbound carriageway of the A14 on Friday, October 20, 2017.

A Nissan Cabstar van, being driven by Mick Rayner, 67, had stopped on the eastbound carriageway, close to the Orwell Bridge, before the Nacton junction because a layby was blocked.

Ipswich Crown Court heard how Mr Rayner had got out of his flatbed van to investigate a concern with the vehicle, which was parked partly on the verge and partly over the white line of the carriageway with its hazard warning lights on.

The tractor crashed into the Nissan, killing Mr Rayner, and there was no witness or physical evidence to suggest any pre-impact braking or avoiding action by Duerden.

The court heard how Duerden had been using his mobile phone from 6.30am to 6.37am, including searching the internet, watching a YouTube video and launching a game application - Airline Manager 2.

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The impact of the crash was around 6.41am, the court heard.

However, there was no evidence that he was actively using his mobile phone at the time of impact.

Sentencing Duerden, Judge Martyn Levett said: "These cases of causing death by dangerous driving have tragic consequences which ripple through the lives of many other family members of the deceased.

"The large number of victim personal statements undoubtedly show that Michael was a much-loved personality in the lives of many. It goes without saying that the impact of his death has been truly devastating on so many lives.

"The facts of this case tell a horrific tale. The case is a lesson for every road user, warning them of the dangers which exist when in possession of smart phones which have access to the internet and are used by those when driving.

"Many other drivers travelling in the same direction managed to see the Nissan with its hazard lights flashing, and overtake the parked flatbed and avoid colliding with it.

"During the journey you made, driving the heavy JCB and trailer, from Beacon Hill service station on the A140 leading on to the A14, from somewhere like 12 miles from the collision spot, you had engaged in using your smart phone to play a strategic competitive program with realistic flight simulation called Airline Manager.

"To engage in such a game when driving means that the focus on driving is lost, thinking performance can be impaired and it decreases hazard perceptions and leads to longer reaction times for critical events, and therefore increase the risk of being involved in a collision."

Judge Levett sentenced Duerden to a total of three years and two months, with a driving disqualification of four years and seven months.

Mr Rayner's family released the following statement through Suffolk police after the verdict:

It read: "Today has been a long time coming for our family, we have waited for over two years to get justice for Michael.

"As a family we miss him every day.

"As much as the sentence is welcomed by us it will never bring Mick home.

"It angers us that one person's need to use their phone whilst driving and show a complete disregard for anyone else on the road that day has had such a shattering effect on our lives.

"Our thanks go to all the emergency services who were called in that day, especially Suffolk police who have gone above and beyond."

Acting Sergeant Barry Teare from the serious collision investigation unit at Suffolk police, said: "It is astonishing that somebody who drives for a living would behave so irresponsibly, let alone whilst driving a such a large vehicle.

"Using a mobile phone when driving is one of the 'fatal four' factors that lead to serious collisions on our roads.

"I would urge all drivers to stop and think about the consequences of their actions. If you use your phone whilst driving and cause an incident like this, you will more than likely go to prison.

"I would like to thank Mick Rayner's family for their patience and support during the investigation and I hope that they can find some measure of closure at the conclusion of this tragic case."