Tractor driver admits killing 67-year-old father by dangerous driving on A14
PUBLISHED: 20:18 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:05 12 December 2019
A tractor driver has admitted killing a 67-year-old man through dangerous driving after a fatal crash on the A14 near the Orwell Bridge.
Christopher Duerden, 26, of Bridge Street, Bungay, was driving a JCB Fastrac tractor and agricultural trailer on the eastbound carriageway of the A14 on Friday, October 20, 2017.
A Nissan Cabstar van, being driven by Mick Rayner, had stopped on the eastbound carriageway, close to the Orwell Bridge, before the Nacton junction.
Ipswich Crown Court heard how Mr Rayner had got out of his flatbed van to investigate a concern with the vehicle, which was parked partly on the verge and partly over the white line of the carriageway with its hazard warning lights on.
It was then that the tractor crashed into the back of the Nissan, causing damage along the side of the flatbed van, and killing Mr Rayner.
The court heard that the tractor was travelling at 37mph and there was no evidence of braking prior to the collision.
The first 999 call was at 6.42am and a witness, who was travelling behind Duerden's tractor in the same lane, said he could not understand how the driver of the tractor could not see the Nissan.
Jane Oldfield, prosecuting, said Duerden was using his mobile phone from 6.30am to 6.37am, including searching the internet, watching a YouTube video and launching a game application - Airline Manager 2.
However, there was no evidence that he was actively using his mobile phone at the time of impact, Miss Oldfield said.
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"While the cause of the collision is not absolutely clear and he was not actively on his phone at the time, the prosecution say the whole course of conduct amounts to gross distraction," she said.
The court heard how Mr Rayner's son Vincent was a passenger in the vehicle and tragically saw the death of his father.
In a victim impact statement read in court, Mr Rayner's wife said the family, from Ford End, near Dunmow in Essex, had "suffered deeply and will never get over such a tragedy".
She said: "I cannot put into words the far-reaching and massive effect this has had. My husband and I did everything together. It feels like 20 years have been stolen from my family and I."
Richard Dawson, defending, said Duerden had shown "true and genuine remorse for the events of that day".
He said: "There is no dispute for some reason or another, he was distracted. But Mr Duerden simply cannot remember, drivers are distracted for a myriad of reasons.
"Whether he continued to be distracted by that phone or something else will ultimately never be known."
Mr Dawson added that Duerden needed to use both hands to use the tractor's splitter gearbox over the Orwell Bridge.
Duerden pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing on November 13.
Judge Martyn Levett adjourned sentence until Thursday and remanded Duerden in custody ahead of the hearing.