A UK lorry driver who killed a woman and three children when he crashed into their stationary car while scrolling through music on his mobile phone has been jailed for ten years.
Tomasz Kroker, 30, hit the car carrying Tracey Houghton, 45, her sons, Ethan, 13, and 11-year-old Josh as well as her stepdaughter, Aimee Goldsmith, 11, on 10 August.
Their car was shunted underneath the back of a heavy goods vehicle and crushed, immediately killing the family from Bedfordshire, on the A34 dual carriageway north of Newbury in Berkshire.
Kroker, from Trajan Walk, Andover in Hampshire, had pleaded guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving at Reading Crown Court on 10 October.
The court had heard that Kroker, who himself had become a father five months before the incident, was so distracted by his phone that he barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre.
Passing sentence, Judge Maura McGowan said his attention had been so poor that he “might as well have had his eyes closed”.
Just an hour earlier he had signed a declaration to his employer, promising he would not use his phone at the wheel.
Kroker’s truck ploughed into a stationary queue of two lorries and four smaller vehicles which were stuck behind a slow-moving articulated lorry near the villages of East and West Ilsley.
A man was seriously injured and four other people were hurt in the incident.
The court heard that Kroker broke down at the scene, crying and saying to himself: “I’ve killed them.”
But he also tried to claim his brakes had failed, telling officers the traffic in front of him “just stopped – I hit my brakes but just couldn’t stop”.
And when he was asked by his company the following day whether he had been distracted, he said: “Had radio on. Not tuning it. Not on phone.”
He refused to answer questions when interviewed by police, but when he was eventually shown the footage from his lorry’s dash-cam he admitted he had been distracted by playing with his phone.
Mrs Justice McGowan said no powers the court had would lessen the “terrible and devastating loss experienced in those affected”.
The judge paid tribute to the “quiet dignity” shown by the family members, saying she “wholeheartedly” supported their calls for greater public awareness about the dangers of using mobile phones when driving.
But the victims of the crash and their relatives dismissed Kroker’s 10-year sentence – of which he will serve half behind bars – as “not doing justice” for the crime.
Speaking outside court on behalf of the family, Aimee’s mother, Kate Goldsmith, said: “Today Tomasz Kroker has been sentenced for killing much-loved members of our family.
“However, in our eyes, the sentence does not do justice to the crime committed. Tracey Houghton, her two sons, Ethan and Josh, and Aimee Goldsmith were innocent victims of his actions.”
UK lorry driver jailed over fatal crash – RTE.ie