Four years for double death-crash driver
A LORRY driver who knocked down and killed a north Northumberland women has been jailed for four years for causing the death of a pensioner.
Joao Correia-Lopes was fined £200 for driving without corrected vision when his truck ran over Eilidh Cairns on February 5, 2009, as she was cycling to work in London. The 30-year-old, originally from Ellingham, died shortly afterwards from massive injuries.
A condition of his sentence was to wear glasses while behind the wheel, but he was allowed to continue driving with just three penalty points imposed on his licence.
On Wednesday, at Isleworth Crown Court in London, the Portuguese national was sent to prison for causing the death by dangerous driving of 97-year-old Nora Gutmann, who he hit with his truck while she was on a pedestrian crossing outside Madame Tussaud’s in Marylebone Road, London, in June last year.
He was also banned from driving for six years.
The court heard that 56-year-old Correia-Lopes has been involved in at least three other collisions between Miss Cairns’ death and that of Mrs Gutmann.
And during their investigation, police found that a powerful magnet had been fitted to the speedometer and odometer on Correia-Lopes’s lorry to evade laws on driving hours.
Prosecutor Christopher Baur said: “As she crossed the carriageway, she was struck by the defendant’s 32 ton tipper lorry, which was being driven at a slow speed.
“The defendant was not wearing his spectacles and Mrs Gutmann sustained extensive injuries.”
“He pulled off at a normal speed until he was flagged down by pedestrians. He then realised someone was under his wheels. He said he had taken off his spectacles earlier in the day and forgotten to put them back on.
“He became aware of his eyesight problem in 2009 when he was involved in a fatal collision when he drove his lorry into a 30-year-old woman, Eilidh Cairns, who was on a pedal cycle.
“He was never charged with an offence of causing her death. Investigations found that his eyesight was poor and he should have been wearing spectacles.”
Sentencing Correia-Lopes for four years in prison, Judge Phillip Matthews said: “On June 17, last year, Nora Gutmann was knocked over by a lorry driven by you. It was on a controlled crossing and when the light changed you moved forward. Believing the road was clear, you moved off at normal speed until a pedestrian flagged you down.
“Tragically and fatally you had in fact knocked over the deceased woman. You were not wearing spectacles when your driving licence had a limitation placed on it, namely that it was a condition when driving that you should wear spectacles. The reason for that was that in February 2009 you were driving a tipper lorry involved in a fatal collision with a female and subsequent investigations established you should have been wearing spectacles.
‘It was not established that your defective vision was causative of that collision. But you pleaded guilty to driving with defective vision and it was a condition that you should wear spectacles.
“Since that date you’ve been involved in further road traffic accidents. These are an aggravating feature which contributed to the seriousness of this offence.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Miss Cairns’ sister Kate, who lives at Low Newton, said Correia-Lopes should have been banned from driving for life.
She set up the See Me Save Me campaign in the wake of Eilidh’s death to eliminate the blind spots in lorries.
“It is clear that the justice system in this case failed to respond properly and Lopes was allowed to carry on driving,” said Kate. “We need to treat road crime as real crime. We need proper and competent police investigation, that is transparent and accountable. We need to afford cyclists and pedestrians the protection of the law, just like any citizen.
“Stricter liability, as in so many other countries, would incentivise employers to equip their drivers properly and to train them to do the job asked of them. It would also ensure truck companies and construction clients set and enforce proper standards and best practice. All we are asking is that the legal system is such that people on our streets are not at danger of death and maiming from commercial activities. HGVs are mobile places of work.
“Having campaigned for three years since Eilidh’s death so others do not have to die I am here because of the death of another amazing woman, Nora Gutmann, who was run over by the same kind of truck by the same driver. None of us should be here to today and that includes Lopes.
“Blind spot danger could have and should have been designed out. Because our transport and justice systems tolerate risk on our roads, my family and the Gutmanns are shattered, while that of Lopes will suffer his imprisonment.
“No-one should have had to suffer, least of all Nora and my sister.”
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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