‘So much life, ended in the blink of an eye’

Steve Clarehugh
Steve Clarehugh

An HGV driver has been jailed for killing a well-known member of the Northumberland flying community when he collided with his JCB on the A1 near Alnwick.

John Rogerson, 72, has today been sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment and disqualified from driving for six years and two months following the incident two miles south of Alnwick on December 9, 2015. Rogerson, of Craig Terrace, Innerleithen, Scotland, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

He had been travelling down from Scotland when he failed to spot the JCB being driven by 54-year-old Steve Clarehugh, from Bockenfield, near Felton, who was the chief flying instructor with Purple Aviation at Eshott Airfield.

Emergency services rushed to his aid, but the father-of-two was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. An investigation was launched by Northumbria Police’s Motor Patrols department at which point Rogerson failed a mandatory eye test.

In a family statement, Stephen’s wife Fiona paid tribute to the father-of-two and grandfather-of-one who was well known in the North East’s flying and microlight communities.

She said: “It is such a bitter irony that a man who spent thousands of hours safely teaching people to fly, in an environment thought by so many to be so dangerous, should be tragically killed in a road traffic accident – so much life, ended in the blink of an eye.

“Steve was a very special person to whom everyone instantly warmed. He was a larger-than-life character who touched so many people with his fabulous zest for life and his great sense of humour. However, if I could use one word to describe him, it would be mischievous.

“He did what he wanted to do and was passionate about, living life to the full – he was a self-made man in the true sense of the word. He was a big man with big hands that loved his food, beer and whiskey and embraced life.

“Steve’s death saddened more than a community, hundreds of sympathy cards, letters and flowers were delivered. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral, which was held in an aircraft hanger.

“We will miss his humour, his loyalty, his love and his friendship, his integrity, his wisdom, his ability to do the right thing and his mischievousness.”

Commenting after today’s sentencing, Senior Investigating Officer, Sergeant Jason Ryder, of Northumbria Police, said: “This was yet another avoidable death on the roads that has robbed a family of a loving father, grandfather and husband and changed their lives forever.

“The mandatory eye test shows that John Rogerson wasn’t fit to drive and the fact that he was behind the wheel of an HGV is particularly shocking for me

“All of us, as drivers, have a huge responsibility every time we take to the road. If you are not fit to drive it can have devastating consequences as we have seen in this case. I want to appeal to any driver who knows or believes they may not be medically fit to drive, to stop and think about their responsibility and seek the appropriate help”

“I also want to appeal to friends and families of drivers, who feel they are not fit to drive, to encourage them to seek the appropriate medical assistance. Too many times officers are having to speak about collisions that could have been prevented if drivers had given consideration to fellow road users.

“I want to praise the bravery of Stephen’s family through what must have been a very testing year. Hopefully this collision can make road users in the same position as Mr Rogerson think twice about getting behind the wheel.”