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HGV driver jailed after using Facebook before fatal crash

School minibus hit by HGV truck

A truck driver, who ploughed into a school minibus killing a teenage boy and teaching assistant after using his mobile phone, has been jailed.

James Majury, 33, of Milton Road, Coppull, Chorley (pictured below), was sentenced to a total of eight years and 10 months after pleading guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and a further five counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Majury’s 19 tonne Mercedes HGV crashed into the back of the school minibus at 50mph resulting in the deaths of 14-year-old Joe Cairns and teaching assistant Anne Kerr, 50.

Seven vehicles were caught up in the collision, which occurred on the M58 close to junction 3 at Bickerstaffe, Lancashire.

The driver of the minibus and three other teenage passengers, as well as the driver of a Ford Transit van, all suffered multiple serious injuries.

Preston Crown Court heard how Majury reacted just half a second before the collision with the stationary Vauxhall Vivaro minibus, containing Kerr and Cairns, who were pronounced dead at the scene on January 8, 2019.

Mobile phone records showed that Majury had been looking at Facebook and fantasy game Hustle Castle, in the moments before the collision, which happened around 8.45am.

It also documents views on the SkySports app, and a series of text messages being sent and received throughout his journey.

Majury had received his last text message at 8.41am, from his mother, which he admitted to looking down, away from the road, to view.

But, he said that when he looked back up he was 12 metres away from the minibus, which was stationary in a queue of traffic. Majury said he attempted to brake but was unable to avoid the collision.

Inspector Claire Pearson from Lancashire Road Policing Unit said: “I felt quite strongly that there was significant evidence that showed a pattern of behaviour which saw Majury use his phone from the start of the journey up to the point of collision that I find completely unacceptable. 

"In my mind there's no question that driving a 19 tonne HGV at 56 miles an hour, whilst not fully concentrating on what's happening in front of you, is extremely dangerous. 

"He didn’t set out that morning to kill anyone but due to his recklessness that is sadly what has happened."

Cairns (pictured below), from Radcliffe, Bury, was on his way to Pontville School for students with special educational needs in Ormskirk, Lancashire when the crash occurred.

Paying tribute, his mum Steph said: “Joe really liked going to school with Anne. Every day he liked to take with him a pug teddy, and his big red blanket and sit on the back seat. I always used to stand and wave him off and tell him I loved him.

“I miss my little boy every minute of every day. I feel useless now he’s not here anymore because he was my world. I always thought he needed me because of his special needs but it turned out I needed him way more.

“It’s ripped me apart and the only thing that keeps me going are my three other beautiful children.

“I cry every day thinking about Joe. He’s constantly on my mind, I miss his humour and his company.

“I think about him laughing because it was so infectious and made me smile, he made everybody smile. He was our hero.”

Teaching assistant Kerr (pictured below) accompanied him on his journey to school each morning.

In a tribute, her husband Simon said: “During Anne’s working day we would keep in regular contact with text messages and when I didn’t hear back from her on that morning, I knew in the back of my mind that something was wrong.

“We shared that connection that people who love each other have, call it instinct or something, it’s hard to explain. But I just knew something was very wrong.

“Anne was my rock. The emptiness I and our two sons feel around the house is overwhelming. All our plans for the future and our retirement were taken away on that cold January morning on the M58.

“I wake some nights and it takes me a few seconds to realise why Anne is a not lying next to me, in those seconds I hope that her death was just a nightmare."

At Preston Crown Court on Friday (August 7) Majury was given a sentence of eight years and 10 months for the death by dangerous driving offences and two years and eight months for the causing serious injury offences, to run concurrently.

Inspector Pearson said: “Joe and Anne’s families can't bring their loved ones back but what they have asked is that people listen to what has happened here and learn that it is never safe to use a phone whilst you're driving.

“So, if you are ever tempted to check your phone while driving, even for a second, think of Joe and Anne, and don’t do it. Just one glance can mean the loss of a life.”

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