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Lorry driver who killed two soldiers in A66 crash jailed for 18 months
7:00am Saturday 5th October 2013 in News
A LORRY driver who killed two soldiers by crashing into their Army ambulance as they were returning to Catterick Garrison was yesterday jailed for 18 months.
Lance Sergeant David Gartland, 40, and Private James “Jimmy” Austin, 24, survived the initial impact when their Land Rover crashed into the back of a lorry which had broken down in a cloud of thick smoke on the A66 at Stainmore, near Brough, Cumbria on September 1, 2011.
But they were killed when Colin Pattison, 53, drove at 30mph into the smoke, crushing the Land Rover to half its size against the stricken lorry in front.
Pattison, of New Close Lodge, Newclose Lane, Goole, North Humberside, was found guilty at Carlisle Crown Court last month of causing their deaths by careless driving, though he was cleared of the more serious charge of causing their deaths by dangerous driving.
Yesterday (Friday, October 4) he was jailed for 18 months and banned from driving for six years.
Judge Barbara Forrester told him he should have slowed down when he saw the quarter-mile high plume of smoke ahead of him.
The fact that he didn’t, she said, amounted to "the highest category of careless driving, falling not far short of dangerous".
The court heard that the smoke was billowing from a lorry which had stopped at the side of the road after a “catastrophic failure” of its engine.
Pattison, an HGV driver for more than 30 years, saw the smoke from about 500 yards away, but continued driving at normal speed, assuming it was nothing more serious than a stubble fire at the side of the road.
The prosecution said he should have slowed to a crawl, as other drivers did when they were confronted by the blinding smoke which reduced visibility to just one or two feet.
Prosecuting counsel Tim Evans told the court: “This is a case that falls just short of dangerous driving. The decision to drive at speed through what was obviously a blind hazard makes it far away from being a case of momentary inattention.”
He said both victims were “caring partners and parents” whose loss had devastated the lives of their families.
In mitigation, defence counsel Nicholas Campbell QC said Pattison was not the only driver to have been “deceived” by the density of the smoke.
He said that after seeing the Land Rover, being driven by Private Austin, driving at about 50mph into the smoke ahead of him, he might have thought it was safe to do the same.
Mr Campbell said Pattison was “a thoroughly decent, thoroughly honest and hard-working man”.