TAXI DRIVER ‘FELL ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL’ BEFORE CRASH WITH CYCLISTS
POPULAR CHEF KILLED IN ROAD TRAGEDY AFTER CABBIE HAD WORKED 13-HOUR SHIFT
A TAXI driver who had been working for 13 hours “ploughed into” three cyclists, killing one and injuring two when he fell asleep at the wheel.
Cardiff Crown Court heard Craig Gough should have had 15 seconds to see the cyclists and react, but evidence showed he did not make any attempt to brake or steer away.
Judge Eleri Rees said: “No sentence passed by this court can reflect the loss of life or lessen the grief of those who have lost a loved one in such a manner.”
The court heard the incident occurred just after 7am on Saturday, October 28 last year on the A48 near Pentre Meyrick.
Prosecutor David Pugh said the defendant, a taxi driver based in Bridgend, had completed a long overnight shift of more than 13 hours during which he took at least 33 fares. Gough, who was selfemployed and working for Dragon Taxis, was driving a Skoda Octavia at the time of the collision, which was found to have no mechanical defects.
The court heard he was seen on CCTV stopping briefly to get food at a McDonald’s drive-thru just after 6am before driving to Cardiff.
Prosecutors said cyclists Jack Berry, Andrew Hooker and Matthew Simmonds met at the Bush Inn pub in St Hilary, near Cowbridge.
Mr Hooker, who was described as an “extremely experienced” cyclist, was the pub landlord and Mr Berry was a chef.
Prosecutors said they had been riding together for about a year and were planing a ride to Ogmore-by-Sea, all dressed in reflective clothing and with appropriate bike lights.
A collision report found the weather was dry and the visibility was good meaning the driver should have had 367m, or 15 seconds, to see the cyclists and respond.
The court heard the three friends were riding in single file with Mr Hooker at the front, Mr Simmonds in the centre, and Mr Berry at the back.
Mr Pugh said: “The defendant struck all three.”
Investigators found Gough did not make any attempt to brake or steer away.
Mr Pugh added: “The defendant did not stop.”
The court heard Gough continued to the brow of the hill before doing a U-turn and returning to the scene. In the meantime a passing van driver stopped, called 999, and administered first aid until the ambulance arrived.
Mr Berry, 26, was pronounced dead at the scene at 8am and his friends were taken to hospital for treatment to their injuries.
Pathologist Dr Meleri Morgan found the cause of death to be traumatic head injury.
Mr Hooker was knocked unconscious and suffered injuries including cuts and bruising to his left shoulder and hip along with extensive bruising and swelling.
Mr Simmonds suffered cuts to his right side, including “severe bruising” to his forehead. They were both released from hospital the same day.
Prosecutors said Gough was “visibly upset” when officers told him former soldier Mr Berry had died. He was arrested and replied to the caution: “I am devastated.”
In his first police interview he said he had taken at least a 30-minute break at McDonald’s before driving straight home after his shift.
After further police investigation he accepted that was not true and told officers he took a short break at McDonald’s before driving to Cardiff, hoping to play poker at a casino to win some money for his upcoming holiday.
He said he believed he had “lost concentration for a second”, then saw a cyclist when he “refocused”, but had no time to do anything to avoid him. He denied falling asleep.
Gough, 36, from Hilton Farm, Colwinston, admitted causing death by dangerous driving .
James Evans, defending, said he had no previous convictions or cautions and had a full, clean driving licence at the time.
Mr Evans said: “This is obviously a tragic case. Nothing I say is designed to detract from that at all.”
He added: “I do ask the court to accept that his remorse is absolutely genuine.”
In her sentencing remarks Judge Rees said: “These were experienced and well-equipped, careful cyclists.”
She added: “The obvious conclusion from all the evidence is that you did indeed fall asleep.”
Gough was jailed for three years and disqualified from driving for five and a half years. He must take an extended re-test.
Craig Gough outside Cardiff Crown Court