Truck driver John Rogers, pictured arriving at Winchester Crown Court this morning, was jailed for almost five years for causing the deaths by dangerous driving of Michael James and Susan Curtis in June 2018
A distracted lorry driver ploughed into the back of a car, crushing it and killing two passengers instantly – then shocked rescuers when he declared ‘this is all I need, this is my first day back from holiday’.
A court today heard John Rogers failed to pay attention on a busy motorway for nine seconds causing his huge 12-wheel HGV to smash into the back of an Audi Q3 while travelling on cruise control.
Shockingly, Rogers, 65, didn’t even apply the brakes of his lorry until three seconds after he had slammed into the back of the Audi with pensioners Michael James and Susan Curtis inside.
Friends Mr James, 77, and Ms Curtis, 67, who were returning from a weekend away together, suffered horrific fatal injuries as their 4×4 was obliterated when it was sandwiched between Rogers’ HGV and another lorry.
Rogers was today jailed after a judge heard the driver told rescuers ‘this is all I need, this is my first day back from holiday’ after failing to spot slow moving traffic from 200 metres away.
Winchester Crown Court heard Rogers’ DAF XF was travelling at 52mph on cruise control when he hit the car at 10.20am on the M3 motorway by Winchester, Hampshire.
Rogers tried to blame Mr James, who was in busy traffic and doing just 11mph, for the horrific collision, claiming he had pulled in front of him and even told police he was an ‘idiot’.
Judge Susan Evans told Rogers losing attention for nine seconds created a ‘substantial risk’ to other motorists as she jailed him for four years and eight months.
Rogers sat emotionless as horrifying dashcam footage from two lorries showed the terrifying impact of the crash.
In one video, a passing lorry reveals how little there was left of the Audi as it was concertinaed between the Renault lorry in front of Mr James’ car and Rogers’ DAF XF.
Footage from the Renault lorry Mr James’ car was crushed into shows it then being smashed into the rear of an ERF lorry. The driver of the Renault lorry is heard screaming in pain.
Prosecutor Tom Wright told the court minutes earlier Rogers, who was hauling a 40ft shipping container filled with car parts, had actually pulled out in front of Mr James, causing him to brake.
Mr Wright said despite emergency services rushing to the scene, Mr James, of Broadstone, Dorset, and Ms Curtis, of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, were pronounced dead at the scene on June 5 last year.
The prosecutor said: ‘There were signs warning about the traffic, one of those being a kilometre back from the slow traffic.
‘The defendant was travelling at a consistent speed of 52mph, while the Audi had been doing about 11mph.
Rogers was driving his HGV carrying a Maersk shipping container full of car parts along the M3 towards London when he ploughed into the back of an Audi Q3 pushing it into a Renault truck, pictured with the blue trailer. Such was the force of the impact, the Renault truck was pushed into a third truck at the head of the queue
The Audi Q3, covered by a white sheet, was completely demolished by the high speed impact. Police believe Rogers was travelling at 52mph on cruise control when he hit the Audi and waited three seconds before applying the brakes – by which time it was too late to avoid pushing the car into the trailer of the truck ahead
‘When other motorists went to help the defendant in his cab, he said ‘this is all I need, this is my first day back from holiday’.
‘He claimed the Audi had pulled in front of him and he could not avoid the collision.
‘In interview, he told police ‘you know the idiots you get, who try to jump in front of you. [The Audi] came up the outside, the brake lights came on and he whipped into the inside lane.’
‘From this, you can infer he was calling Mr James an idiot.
‘We are still unable to say what caused the defendant’s inattention.
‘Shortly before, Mr Rogers had pulled out of lane one, into the middle lane, in front of Mr James. The Audi had to break and then the defendant pulled back into lane one.
‘I mention this, because it may be indicative he was not paying attention to other road users.’
Rogers, a grandfather of eight from Trdegar, Gwent, admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
Jailing him and banning him from driving for four years, Judge Evans said: ‘On June 5, 2017, a tragic collision occurred on the northbound carriageway of the M3 motorway.
‘It was caused by dangerous driving and led to the death of two people, Michael James, a much loved father and friend, and Susan Curtis, a much loved mother and friend.
‘To say their families have been devastated by this does not do it justice. They have had no chance to say goodbye to a loved one.
‘There’s nothing this court can do to compensate the loss of their lives.
‘Your attention was in some way distracted for a period of nine seconds, it is not known what caused you to be distracted.
Judge Susan Evans, sitting at Winchester Crown Court, pictured, jailed Rogers for four years and eight months and banning him from driving for four years
‘You did not, in fact, brake until three seconds after the collision. It seems to me this created a substantial risk of danger – you did not seem to respond to the traffic.
‘There was also some degree of blame laid on Mr James, but he was in no way to blame for what happened.’
Mitigating, Alexander Greenwood told the court Rogers ‘was not tired’ and said the crash had a major impact on his client, who had been an HGV driver for 18 years.
He said: ‘Nothing I can say, in any way, can begin to mitigate for the terrible loss of the two families.
‘Mr Rogers had a latent heart condition, there’s no question of him not being able to drive as he had been medically cleared, but it is right to observe that.
‘He is simply unaware of how this collision occurred.
‘This has had a big impact on his life, the heart condition has worsened likely through the stress and guilt he has felt.’
Speaking after the sentencing, crash investigator PC Mark Furse said: ‘Rogers had at least eight to nine seconds to stop his vehicle and could have done so safely in half that.
‘He did not apply any braking until around three seconds after the first impact.
‘This absolute tragedy just shows what a few moments of inattention can result in. The need to pay full attention at all times in paramount.
‘Even the slightest distraction can have catastrophic consequences and the effects are far reaching and last a lifetime.’