Lorry Driver Kills Family while using Sat Nav

A court has heard that a lorry driver who smashed into a car killing a family of six had been distracted by the use of a satellite navigation system.

Portuguese Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva was driving his 40-ton articulated lorry on the M6 on 20 October 2007, when he smashed into the car containing a family of six. David Statham aged 38 and his wife Michelle, 33, and their four children, Reece, 13, Jay, 9, Mason, 20 months, and ten-week-old Ellouise.

The family from Llandudno in Wales had been travelling home from a trip to see family and friends in Birmingham when the crash happened between junctions 16 and 17 at about 10.40pm. All six members of the young family died instantly.

The crash happened because traffic had stopped on the M6 after an earlier accident between junctions 17 and 18 in which another man was killed. Traffic had backed up on the motorway. When the Statham’s Toyota Previa people carrier was hit by Mr Da Silva’s lorry it was forced under a Volvo Lorry in front. The catastrophic collision separated the body of the Toyota from its chassis. Mr Da Silva claimed he did not see the family’s car which was at the back of a line of stationary traffic, until 10-20 metres away.

Mr Da Silva who lives in Murcia, Spain, was taking fruit juice from his home town to a Morrison’s distribution centre in Northwich, Cheshire. He is on trial after being charged with six counts of causing death by dangerous driving. He denies all charges claiming that the Toyota had crashed into the Volvo in front before he crashed into them.

At Chester Crown Court, the prosecution claim that Mr Da Silva had been using a satellite navigation system whilst driving his lorry, which is why he didn’t see that the traffic had stopped. Andrew Thomas QC told the court: “Mr Da Silva hit the traffic at a speed of about 40mph for the simple reason that for a mile or so before the collision he had not been watching the road ahead of him. Officers who searched the interior of his cab found a Global Positioning System on the console alongside his seat, with the screen turned to face the driver.”

Mr Da Silva was breathalysed at the scene of the accident and there was no trace of alcohol in his system.

Mr Thomas said there was no indication that there were any mechanical faults with any of the vehicles involved in the crash. He said: “He should have been paying proper attention to the road, if he had done so, he could not have failed to see the queuing traffic. The only proper inference is that he took his eyes off the road for a prolonged time. When you are driving a 40-ton truck, that is highly dangerous.”

Mr Da Silva says that he was not using his laptop at the time of the crash as it was switched off. His defence claim that evidence from a tachograph in the Volvo lorry show that the Statham’s Toyota must have hit the Volvo before the impact with Mr Da Silva’s lorry.

The trial continues at Chester Crown Court.

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