A lorry driver who killed an elderly motorist and badly injured his wife in a catastrophic head-on collision has been jailed for four years.
Garry Tierney drove onto the wrong side of the road before crashing into the car driven by Matthew Donnell who was accompanied by his wife Edith.
Tierney’s defence counsel David Nicolson told the High Court in Edinburgh: “He accepts that he drove his vehicle into the oncoming carriageway and did so for a number of seconds. Even to this present day he does not know how that came to pass.”
“It seems that he has lost concentration for a number of seconds. There is no other explanation to be found, despite extensive inquiry,” said the defence counsel, who added that Tierney was “a broken man”.
Tierney’s fatal lapse in concentration cost Mr Donnell, 86, his life after he sustained a non-survivable head injury and his 81-year-old wife was extensively injured in the crash on the A939 Nairn to Ballater road at Dava Moor, in Morayshire, near Grantown-on-Spey.
Tierney earlier admitted causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving.
He failed to make proper observations of the road ahead and went into the opposing carriageway and continued to drive in it causing the collision.
A judge said that Mr Donnell had been the main carer for his wife and as a result of his death she had to be admitted to a residential care home, changing her life forever.
Lord Arthurson told Tierney that he had expressed “appropriate remorse” and was a low risk offender who had taken responsibility for his actions which led to the catastrophic incident.
The judge said he had concluded that “a significant custodial disposal” was required and told Tierney that he would have faced a six-year jail term but for his guilty plea.
He also banned him from driving for seven years and told him that he would require to sit an extended test before applying for a driving licence.
On the morning of the crash Tierney was driving an articulated lorry heading south with a tanker load of yeast. Mr and Mrs Donnell, of Grantown, were travelling north in a Peugeot 208 car.
Advocate depute Chris McKenna earlier told the court: “The collision was caused by Tierney driving his entire vehicle on the wrong side of the road. This resulted in the front offside of his vehicle colliding with the front of the Peugeot.”
Witnesses came upon the crash scene with the lorry jack-knifed and the Peugeot lying wrecked down an embankment. Other drivers stopped to give help and emergency services were contacted.
Mr McKenna said: “A woman briefly checked on the welfare of Tierney. He appeared in shock, was shaking and struggling to light his cigarette.”
“Her husband was later approached by Tierney, who asked him if he knew what had happened,” said the prosecutor.
A police investigation concluded that the lorry driver would have had clear view of the oncoming Peugeot car and had “failed to react”.
Mr Nicolson said: “He was driving at 32mph, not at an excessive speed. He was not driving aggressively. He was not ignoring warnings from anyone else.”
“This was not a prolonged and deliberate course of bad driving. He was not racing. He was not impaired through the consumption of alcohol or drugs. But he did carry out a single dangerous maneouvre in that he travelled across the carriageway into the opposing carriageway,” he told the court.