Lorry driver accused of causing fatal A19 crash told police he had tried to avoid 'catastrophe'

A lorry driver accused of causing a fatal crash told police he had tried to avoid "catastrophe", jurors have heard.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:35 pm

Prosecutors claim Marcel Balan, 57, brought his DAF HGV to a sudden stop and planned to reverse along the A19 because he missed his turn off onto the A1231.

Newcastle Crown Court heard John Robinson, 24, who was driving home from work, smashed his Ford Fusion into the back of Balan's lorry and died from severe head injuries.

Jurors have heard the force of the collision, last March, pushed the lorry eight meters along the dual carriageway and Mr Robinson's Ford went underneath it.

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Marcel Balan

Balan, of Cope Street, Barnsley, denies causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by driving without due care and attention and is being tried by a jury.

Jurors have heard transcripts of Balan's interviews with the police in the aftermath of the tragedy.

He told officers he had deliberately missed the turn-off onto the slip road because he heard a noise in his lorry and feared his cargo may have come loose.

Balan told police: "I heard the noise and continued in order to find somewhere to reassure the safety of my load."

John Robinson

He said he feared the cargo may fall from the back of the truck and cause "catastrophe".

Balan added: "I heard the noise. I didn't want to turn left and cause problems. I didn't indicate, I continued.

"I just slowly, slowly continued.

"After I heard the noise I didn't accelerate anymore, I just let it go forward.

"If I turned left I didn't want to press the brake suddenly, I just continued, straight, then someone hit me from behind.

"I didn't want to cause something in the exit road."

Balan said he was looking for a safe place to take refuge and check his load when the "horrible thing happened".

He told police he did not want to make the left turn as he feared the manoeuvre could have effected the load he feared was already loose.

He added: "I didn't know if it was the right thing to do but I had no option at all, I had no option.

"I would have caused a catastrophe.

"Something was loose, I could heard 'boom, boom', that's all I know.

"I was scared something was going to happen imminently."

Balan said he "did not stop suddenly" and said Mr Robinson maybe "wasn't paying attention" or "maybe he fell asleep" when the crash happened.

He added: "I put my hands on my head, I got out of the vehicle, I looked, I looked around, he was underneath."

Balan told police he had been driving for 35 years, which included four years in Europe and three in England, with no issues or accidents.

Balan was out making deliveries on behalf of a coffee bar chain on March 12 last year and had started his shift in the early evening.

Just before the fatal crash, which happened near midnight, Balan had made a delivery at Simonside service station in South Shields and was heading to the Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland.

The route planner on his sat nav system indicated he should take the A1231.

Prosecutor Mark Guiliani has told jurors Balan had brought his vehicle to a stop within about eight seconds and would have used "moderate to heavy" braking to do so.

Mr Guiliani said it is not known why Mr Robinson was unable to avoid the collision with the lorry but there was no evidence he was speeding or distracted in any way and had no alcohol or drugs in his system.

The court heard when the lorry load cargo was checked after the crash it was found to be safe and secure.