Lorry driver whose careless driving caused pensioner’s death sentenced

A LORRY driver whose careless driving caused the death of an elderly north Cumbrian cyclist has been given suspended jail sentence.

The tragedy happened on March 29, 2018, as Neil Gass, 48 – at the wheel of a wagon pulling a log-laden trailer – was negotiating a roundabout on the A689 bypass north of Carlisle[1].

After a trial, he was cleared of causing the death of Wetheral man Mike Seminara, 71, by dangerous driving.

From the outset, however, he admitted his driving was careless.

But for legal reasons, his admission did not amount to a formal conviction, making it necessary for the case to come back to court after legal arguments.

Gass, of Prior Avenue, Canonbie, later formally admitted causing Mr Seminara’s death by careless driving.

During the trial, the court heard that Mr Seminara – a keen and experienced cyclist – was on his electric bike and cycling with two friends on the morning of the accident.

As the group approached the roundabout, his friends moved on to a nearby cycle-path.

But Mr Seminara stayed on the main roundabout.

Gass accepted that as he negotiated the roundabout in his lorry he made a split-second “careless assumption” about which roundabout exit Mr Seminara would take.

He believed the pensioner – wearing a high-visibility jacket – would take the second exit, whereas Mr Seminara was actually intending to take the third exit towards Cargo.

As Gass tried to pull past him, his trailer collided with Mr Seminara, fatally injuring him.

Gass told the court he was “absolutely devastated” by the tragedy.

Lisa Judge, for Gass, said he offered his sincere apology to the Seminara family.

The barrister highlighted a probation officer’s reports which had  “made numerous references to the defendant’s clear, unequivocal and palpable remorse.”

She characterised Gass’s error as a “momentary lapse of attention”.

Recorder David Temkin described the tragedy as a “truly sad case.”

He spoke of Mr Seminara as a dedicated family man, devoted to his wife Joyce, their children and grandchildren and wider family.

He had loved the outdoors, swimming, fell-walking, and cycling. His death had left an emptiness in his wife’s life.

On the day of the accident, as a cyclist, Mr Seminara had been “by definition vulnerable,” said the judge.

Recorder Temkin rejected the claim that Gass’s attempt to overtake Mr Seminara on the roundabout was momentary inattention.

“You should have slowed down and you should have stayed behind the cyclist,” said the judge, noting that Gass had a previous conviction for careless driving dating back to 2014.

But the judge noted also that Gass was not speeding, not impatient, and not distracted; and that he had shown immediate remorse and concern for Mr Seminara.

“I accept entirely that you are very, very sorry,” Recorder Temkin told Gass.

The judge said he was particularly moved by a letter from the defendant’s wife, who described how Gass was haunted by the tragedy, dreamed about it and was now suffering from post-traumatic stress. The Recorder imposed a 12-week jail term, suspended for 18 months, ruling that Gass must take a diver awareness course.

The judge also banned the defendant from driving for 15 months.

References

  1. ^ Carlisle (www.newsandstar.co.uk)