A LORRY driver from Cirencester who killed two people when he ploughed into a line of queuing traffic waiting to leave a motorway, was jailed on Thursday.
William Cater missed four warning signs in the two miles before his faulty 35 tonne truck smashed into one car which created a domino effect and led to half a dozen cars being struck.
The tragic crash happened one morning in September 2018 at J25 on the M5 at Taunton.
Cater, a professional driver who had driven hundreds of thousands of miles without a blot on his licence, was driving to Yeovil from Wiltshire that morning.
Taunton Crown Court heard the tractor and trailer unit had faults which meant it should not have been on the road.
The court was told that Cater may have been distracted by objects in his cab including a tassled fringe in the middle of the windscreen, a tray on the dashboard and a dreamcatcher.
Rod Walsh, 54, from Cheddar, was killed as he sat in the front seat of his Honda car, with his wife who was driving and who was left with severe facial wounds and was placed in an induced coma.
Their car then became entwined with one driven by Joanne Jennings, 45, from Highbridge, who was also killed and whose daughter was badly hurt.
Five other people were injured, two of them seriously.
Cater admitted causing death by dangerous driving and a further two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Judge Paul Cook said:”You were not on a mobile phone, not intoxicated and not speeding.”
He told Cater:”It was a fundamental error of judgment. When you struck the Honda it led to a domino effect, colliding with other vehicles further up the queue.”
After the crash Cater told a witness at the scene:”I am f***ed. I did not see the queue.”
The court heard Cater was travelling at 48mph on cruise control but started braking just 49 metres before the impact.
Mr Walsh died from chest injuries and Mrs Jennings from head wounds.
Partners of the victims told the court that their lives had been devastated by the loss of their soulmates who were described as ‘good and worthy’ and ‘bubbly, friendly and outgoing’.
But Judge Cook said it was ‘not a momentary lapse’ of concentration because Cater had missed four warning signs in the two mile run up to the junction – with the final one just 0.26 mile from the crash site.
Cater, 48, was jailed for a total term of two years and eleven months – and will serve 17 months behind bars. He had no previous criminal convictions.
He was also banned from driving for 41 months.