A LORRY driver who killed three people in a horrific multi-vehicle crash on the motorway near Durham has been jailed.

Ion Nicu Onut, 41, was driving a Scania lorry carrying fertiliser when he lost control on the A1(M) at Bowburn, on July 15 last year.

Durham Crown Court heard he had been looking at sex dating websites at the time of the crash and did not see the stationary traffic ahead.

Read more: Driver who killed three on A1(M) at Bowburn was surfing sex sites

Two lorries and four cars were involved in the collision and David Daglish, 57, and Elaine Sullivan, 59, from Seaham, and Paul Mullen, 51, of Washington, died from their injuries.

Several people were also injured in the crash, on the northbound carriageway near junction 61, and one of the lorries caught fire.

Onut of Galashiels, Scotland, admitted three counts of causing death by dangerous driving at an earlier court hearing in December.

The Northern Echo: Ion OnutIon Onut

Judge James Adkin jailed him for eight years and ten months.

The judge said: “You were preoccupied with forming casual sexual relationships with strangers while driving down the motorway at 50mph.

“You failed to see the traffic. The consequences were catastrophic.

“The lives of those close to those who died will forever be blighted by their untimely demise.”

The judge said he will serve half of his sentence in prison and the rest on licence, meaning he will be free in four years and five months.

Onut will also be banned from diving for a total of ten years when he is released.

Onut had been looking sites Shag Today and Mystic Match, had spent almost £50 to engage with users, and was looking at profiles and editing his own over a period of 40 minutes leading up to the smash.

His last interaction on his phone was in the seconds before the collision and he was “utterly oblivious” to the stationary vehicles ahead, the court was told.

Onut, 41, did not brake before driving into the line of traffic at 58mph.

He first hit the back of the Vauxhall Crossland containing Mr Daglish, 57, and Ms Sullivan, 59, then smashed 51-year-old Mr Mullen’s Toyota Hilux under another lorry before carrying on along the road, injuring three others.

Judge James Adkin, who banned Onut from driving for 10 years after his release, said: “You were not asleep at the wheel, which would have been bad enough, in fact you were trawling the internet looking for casual sexual partners”.

Onut, who was living with his family in Galashiels, Scotland, and working for a haulage firm, was heading North with a load of fertiliser when he caused the crash around 6.15pm on July 15 2021.

A previous incident had caused traffic to build up and warning signs alerted drivers of delays and told them slow down, with other motorists observing a 50mph limit put in place.

But Onut was seen weaving across lanes prior to the crash, which happened near the Bowburn junction, and did not slow down.

Nick Dry, prosecuting, said analysis of Onut’s phone showed he had used it extensively while driving his lorry, and that he had been browsing the internet for 40 minutes before the collision.

Mr Dry said: “The telephone was found to have been in constant use.

“The history showed the defendant had been accessing two adult dating sites – one, Shag Today, and another, called Mystic Match.

“He had done so driving at speeds that never went below 50mph.”

Mr Dry added: “He was utterly engrossed in internet activity, in pursuit of sexual gratification, over an extended period of time while in control of a large goods vehicle on a busy motorway.”

Richard Bloomfield, defending, said Onut felt remorse and passed on an apology from the defendant for the “devastation” he caused.

Sergeant Catherine Iley said after the case: “It was incredibly distressing and upsetting for those who witnessed the collision and for the emergency responders, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics, who attended the scene.

“The horror of what they witnessed that day will no doubt remain with them for many years to come.”

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