HGV driver is jailed for killing two men in crash on M1 smart motorway


HGV driver, 40, is sentenced to 10 months for killing two men in crash on M1 smart motorway after victim’s widow argued the trucker should be spared jail

  • Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, died in smash on June 7 last year
  • The men died when lorry ploughed into stationary vehicles on M1 near Sheffield  
  • Prezemyslaw Zbigniew Szuba, 40, was jailed today at Sheffield Crown Court
  • The driver admitted causing death by driving without due care and attention

A lorry driver was today jailed for ten months for causing the deaths of two men in a collision on a stretch of the M1 smart motorway.

Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, died when a lorry ploughed into their stationary vehicles after they had been involved in a ‘minor shunt’. 

Prezemyslaw Zbigniew Szuba, 40, admitted two counts of causing death by driving without due care and attention over the incident near Sheffield on June 7 last year. 

At Sheffield Crown Court today, judge Jeremy Richardson QC said motorway hard shoulders are like lifeboats on ships.

Prezemyslaw Zbigniew Szuba, 40, admitted two counts of causing death by driving without due care and attention over the incident near Sheffield on June 7 last year

The judge said it was not his role to conduct a public inquiry into the controversial highways, but said: ‘A hard shoulder strikes me as analogous to the emergency doors on an aeroplane or lifeboats on ships.

‘One never hopes ever to use them, and most of the time you never do. But they’re there.’ 

Since her husband’s death, Mr Mercer’s wife Claire has mounted a prominent campaign against smart motorways, arguing that he would not have died if there had been a hard shoulder.

She told the court today: ‘The events of June 7, 2019 would not have taken place if England’s highways were different to how they are.

Jason Mercer

Alexandru Murgeanu

Jason Mercer (left), 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu (right), 22, died when a lorry ploughed into their stationary vehicles on the M1 near Sheffield on June 7 last year

‘My hope in this devastation is that no more lives are ruined needlessly.’  

Mrs Mercer had previously said she would use her victim personal statement to the crown court to argue that the trucker should be spared jail.

She told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘I don’t believe the correct person is taking responsibility. The events would not have taken place if England’s highways were run with the correct priorities in mind.’

The magistrates’ court heard how Mr Mercer, from Rotherham, and Mr Murgeanu, from Mansfield, had been involved in a ‘minor bump’ on the northbound carriageway of the M1, between junctions 34 and 35, and had stopped in the slow lane.

Mr Mercer's wife Claire (pictured together) has mounted a prominent campaign against smart motorways, arguing that he would not have died if there had been a hard shoulder

Mr Mercer’s wife Claire (pictured together) has mounted a prominent campaign against smart motorways, arguing that he would not have died if there had been a hard shoulder

Szuba’s Mercedes HGV ‘ploughed into both vehicles’.

Prosecutors said the lorry was not speeding and there was no suggestion that the defendant had been drinking or was on drugs.

Nicola Hale, defending, said her client had only just joined the motorway at junction 34 and ‘it was only for a matter of seconds that the (stationary) vehicles were visible’.

She said the evidence in the case showed Szuba was driving ‘normally’ and well within the speed limit just before the crash.

Szuba, of Hull, East Yorkshire, was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court today by the Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC.

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