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HGV driver jailed after Warwickshire M40 crash killed RAF pilot

A HELICOPTER pilot newly qualified with the RAF was killed after stopping to help a van driver in a crash on the M40.

As Scott McConnell called 999 from his VW Golf with the hazard warning lights on, an articulated lorry ploughed into the back.

Scott McConnell (45056830)
Scott McConnell (45056830)

HGV driver Malcolm Clarkson, 44, has been jailed for three-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to causing his death by dangerous driving.

Clarkson was speaking to his mother on a hands-free phone and only braked 24 metres before impact, Warwick Crown Court heard. He was banned from driving for six years and nine months.

Prosecutor Grace Ong said air crew sergeant Mr McConnell, 26, had recently graduated from helicopter flying school and was due to begin a posting in a Chinook at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

At 10.15pm on 19th November 2019, he stopped to help at an accident in which a white van had collided with a Royal Mail lorry on the northbound M40 near Warwick services.

The lorry pulled on to the hard shoulder, but the van was in the first lane, and Mr McConnell pulled up behind it so his car was half on the hard shoulder and half in lane one. As he called emergency services, the Scania lorry ploughed into the back.

Clarkson had been doing 61mph and could not brake in time to avoid the Golf, sending it spinning into the back of the white van before both ended up on the hard shoulder.

Other drivers, including a student who had been behind the Scania and noticed the Golf’s hazard lights, stopped to help.

Mr McConnell was rushed by ambulance to University Hospital in Coventry where he was found to have “head and neck injuries which were not survivable”, said Miss Ong. He died at 7.20 the next morning.

At the scene, Clarkson said he had looked in his mirror and when he looked back he saw the vehicle in lane one so checked to see if he could pull out, and there was then a collision.

But when he was interviewed later, Clarkson – who had previous convictions for offences including falsifying his mileage and supplying drugs – declined to answer any questions.

Andrew Nuttall, defending, said: “The defendant fully accepts his guilt. He never wanted to hurt anyone. He doesn’t actually know what happened to him but accepts it was his fault. The consequence of his driving will live with him for ever. He cannot do anything other than say over and over again that he is sorry.

“He recognises the devastation felt by Mr McConnell’s family, but he has been greatly affected by this incident himself. He recognises he will go to custody and he feels that it is right that he should be punished.”

Jailing Clarkson, from Southport, Merseyside, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “HGV drivers like you owe a particular responsibility to other road-users because an error in their control can be so catastrophic.

“A student was following you, and his view of the road was poorer, but he saw Mr McConnell’s hazard lights. You plainly should have had a better view, but you did not seek to slow your vehicle or to move over. In fact you were accelerating, and it was less than a second before colliding with Mr McConnell’s vehicle that you applied your brakes.

“You were on the phone, hands-free, to your mother. I am quite satisfied that was at least a factor in taking your attention away from the road.

“He was a young man at the very start of his adult life, and that life has been taken away from him, and his family have been left with their anger and pain and grief.

“I have no doubt you are very sorry, but nothing you can do and nothing I can do can take away the pain the family suffers and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.”

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