CABBIE HIT AND KILLED C YCLIST AF­TER FALL­ING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - LIZ DAY Re­porter liz.day@waleson­line.co.uk

ATAXI 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.

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 self-em­ployed and drove for 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 made no 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. Pathol­o­gist Dr Meleri Mor­gan found the cause of Mr Berry’s death to be trau­matic head in­jury.

Mr Hooker was knocked un­con­scious and suf­fered in­juries in­clud­ing cuts and bruis­ing to his left shoul­der and hip. 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 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 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.

In a vic­tim im­pact state­ment read out in court, Mr Hooker – who cy­cles be­tween 5,000 and 8,000 miles a year – said the friends were “laugh­ing and jok­ing” as they set off on the ride that day.

He said: “Un­for­tu­nately one of us never re­turned from that ride. That was the mo­ment my life would never be the same again.”

The court heard Mr Berry worked for Mr Hooker and his wife for about a year, gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence while as­pir­ing to start his own busi­ness.

Re­call­ing the in­ci­dent, Mr Hooker said: “When I re­gained con­scious­ness I saw I was bleed­ing and saw Jack ly­ing in the road next to me.”

He de­scribed the mo­ment he learnt of Mr Berry’s death as “heart­break­ing”, adding: “We are a very close fam­ily at the pub and Jack was a big part of that fam­ily.”

Gough, 36, from Hil­ton Farm, Col­win­ston, in the Vale of Glam­or­gan, ad­mit­ted caus­ing death by dan­ger­ous driv­ing .

Sen­tenc­ing, Judge Eleri Rees said: “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 retest be­fore be­ing al­lowed to drive again.

> Popular chef Jack Berry

> Craig Gough

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