Man jailed for causing deaths by dangerous driving while using his mobile phone - A34

31/10/2016

A man appeared at Reading Crown Court today, Monday, 31 October 2016, and was jailed for 10 years for causing the deaths of a mother and three children by using his mobile phone while driving a lorry on the A34 in August.

Tomasz Kroker, aged 30, of Tarjan Walk, Andover, Hampshire, was sentenced today after pleading guilty at the same court on 10 October 2016, to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

He was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for each count of causing death by dangerous driving and four years' imprisonment for causing serious injury by dangerous driving, all to run concurrently. In addition to the custodial sentence he was disqualified from driving for 7 years.

Police officers were called shortly after 5.10pm on 10 August 2016, to a report of a collision on the northbound carriageway of the A34 between the East Ilsley and West Ilsley junctions.

A slow moving articulated lorry had caused a tailback. Two other lorries and four smaller vehicles were all stationary behind it. A fourth lorry, driven by Kroker, who was distracted by his mobile phone, drove into the back of the stationary queue of vehicles at approximately 50mph.

Tracy Houghton, aged 45, from Bedfordshire, and the three children travelling in the car with her - her two sons Josh Houghton, aged 11, and Ethan Houghton, aged 13, and her step-daughter, Aimee Goldsmith, aged 11, all died at the scene. A further five people were injured in the collision.

Gavin Hernandez, District Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This case involved a terrible incident, which led to the untimely deaths of four members of the same family and the serious injury of a man on the A34 in August. This is a tragic waste of these lives and could have been avoided.

"At about 5.10pm on Wednesday, 10 August this year, Tomasz Kroker was driving a lorry on the northbound carriageway of the A34 between the East and West Ilsley junctions when, distracted by the use of his mobile phone, he failed to see the vehicles ahead of him slowing due to a slow moving articulated lorry, which had caused a tailback.  At a speed of approximately 50mph, he drove into the back of the stationary queue of vehicles, which comprised of three lorries, two cars, a car towing a trailer, and a van, causing catastrophe, destruction and devastation.  Tracy Houghton, aged 45, from Bedfordshire, her two sons, Josh Houghton, aged 11, and Ethan Houghton, aged 13, and her partner's daughter, Aimee Goldsmith, aged 11, who were all travelling in the same vehicle, died at the scene.  A further five people were injured including one man, who was airlifted to hospital with life threatening injuries.

"This was not just a tragic accident, but a death caused by Kroker's inattention and distraction. The slow moving vehicles were clearly visible to Kroker for a considerable time, and the three lorries were stationary for 16 seconds prior to the collision, but Kroker was oblivious to the approaching danger.  This is evident from the dash cam footage, which shows the flashing hazard lights ahead on one of the vehicles and Kroker looking down at the mobile phone he is holding in his left hand.  Only 0.75 seconds before impact does he look up with sudden horror on his face, but it was too late for him to take any avoiding action.

"Kroker initially claimed at the scene that his brakes had failed and answered 'no comment' to two police interviews, but, when confronted with the dash cam footage he admitted he had been playing with his mobile phone.  On Monday, 10 October 2016, at Reading Crown Court, due to the strength of evidence against him, and recognising that justice had caught up with him, he pleaded guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

"This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to be alert and prepared for unexpected or challenging driving conditions. Holding a driving licence brings with it a high degree of responsibility that should always be at the forefront of every driver's mind.  Mobile phones must not be used by drivers, under any circumstances, as they are a lethal distraction, which, as this case demonstrates, leads to untold misery.

"It is unimaginable to think of the emotional impact that this incident will have on the man and teenage boy, who witnessed, at close range, the deaths of four members of their own family.  I hope that the conviction and today's sentence will in some way help them and their family and friends come to terms with this tragic event. I also hope that those injured continue with their recovery.  My thoughts are very much with them all at this time."

Detective Sergeant Gavin Collier, from the Serious Injury Collision Unit, said: "This was a truly devastating case where a mother and three children lost their lives and a man was seriously injured. The most tragic element of this incident is that it was avoidable. Tomasz Kroker was looking at his mobile phone while driving, this needless and avoidable act has resulted in the most devastating and horrific circumstances.

"No sentence will bring back Tracy, Aimee, Josh and Ethan, but their families have asked that we reinforce how dangerous it is to use a mobile phone while driving."