A lorry driver who killed a woman and three children by ploughing into their stationary car while scrolling through music on his mobile phone has been jailed for 10 years.
Tomasz Kroker, 30, smashed into the vehicle carrying Tracey Houghton, 45, her sons, Ethan Houghton, 13, and Josh Houghton, 11, and her stepdaughter, Aimee Goldsmith, 11, at 50mph on August 10.
Their car was shunted underneath the back of a heavy goods vehicle and crushed to a third of its size, immediately killing the family, from Bedfordshire, at the scene on the A34 dual carriageway north of Newbury in Berkshire.
Kroker, from Trajan Walk, Andover, Hampshire, had pleaded guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving at Reading Crown Court on October 10.
He was sentenced at the same court on Monday.
The court had heard that Kroker, who himself had become a father five months before the incident, was so distracted by his phone that he barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre.
Passing sentence, Judge Maura McGowan said his attention had been so poor that he “might as well have had his eyes closed”.
Just an hour earlier he had signed a declaration to his employer, promising he would not use his phone at the wheel.
Kroker’s truck ploughed into a stationary queue of two lorries and four smaller vehicles which were stuck behind a slow-moving articulated lorry near the villages of East and West Ilsley at around 5.10pm.
A man was seriously injured and four other people were hurt in the horrific accident.
The court was packed with members of the victims’ families and survivors of the crash, many of whom were in tears as prosecutor Charles Ward-Jackson recounted what happened that day.
As pictures and footage of the accident were shown to the court, some left the courtroom, rather than re-live the horrors.
Kroker himself wiped away tears and held his face in his hands as the more harrowing details of the incident were read out.
He also tried to claim his brakes had failed, telling officers the traffic in front of him “just stopped – I hit my brakes but just couldn’t stop”.
And when he was asked by his company the following day whether he had been distracted, he said: “Had radio on. Not tuning it. Not on phone.”
He refused to answer questions when interviewed by police, but when he was eventually shown the footage from his lorry’s dash-cam he admitted he had been distracted by playing with his phone.
Defending, James Rozier said Kroker – whose partner was in court to see him sentenced – understood the “unfathomable” harm he had caused, that he himself wanted justice to be done and offered his “regret and remorse” to those affected.