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Lorry driver caused trucker's death on A9 after falling asleep at wheel

David MacDonald was jailed for three and a half years at the High Court in Edinburgh.

David MacDonald
Ciaran Donnelly

A lorry driver who killed another trucker in a crash after falling asleep at the wheel has been jailed for three and a half years.

David MacDonald failed to take sufficient rest before the collision on the A9 road with a lorry being driven by Gordon Cooper, 57.

MacDonald, 25, was driving north in a tanker when it began to drift across to the opposite side of the road before smashing into the other vehicle.

A judge told MacDonald at the High Court in Edinburgh that the victim was a family man who left a widow and two sons.

Lord Bracadale said he was conscious that no sentence he imposed could bring back Mr Cooper or begin to compensate for his loss.

The judge said: "The sentence cannot and is not intended to measure the value of the life of Mr Cooper."

He told MacDonald that he had embarked on a long return journey between Elgin, in Moray, and Girvan, in Ayrshire, through the day and night without taking adequate rest periods.

Lord Bracadale said: "The predictable result was you fell asleep at the wheel with devastating consequences.

"All drivers must take care not to drive when too tired and for commercial drivers like you the regulations over rest periods are laid down with the specific purpose of preventing such catastrophic occurrences."

Lord Bracadale said he accepted that MacDonald had shown remorse and was carrying "a considerable burden" over what happened and that he suffered serious injuries.

The judge told him he would have faced a jail sentence of four years and nine months but for his guilty plea.He also banned MacDonald from driving for seven years and ordered he resit the extended test.

MacDonald earlier admitted causing the death of Mr Cooper by driving dangerously on the A9 between Dunkeld and Ballinluig on December 23 in 2010.

Two teenage friends of MacDonald were accompanying him on the trip and one of them screamed at him moments before the fatal collision two days before Christmas.

Advocate depute Stephen O'Rourke told the court: "In the moments before the collision Luke McLean recalls that their lorry, driven by the accused, very slowly began to drift across onto the opposite side of the road.

"At this point he turned to the accused who had his two hands on the wheel and appeared to be awake," said the prosecutor.

"He shouted 'Sumo' twice, which is the accused's nickname, but the accused didn't react. He then screamed 'Sumo' very loudly but by this time Mr McLean realised they were across the carriageway and about to collide with the lorry being driven by Mr Cooper coming south," he said.

Mr O'Rourke added: "At that third shout the accused did react, pulling the steering wheel around to the left which brought the driver's side of the accused's lorry directly into the point of impact."

The collision brought Mr Cooper's lorry to a halt on the verge with the cab of the vehicle significantly damaged. MacDonald's vehicle continued on and jack-knifed and the cab hit a concrete block.

The tanker trailer rolled onto his side detached from the cab.

Mr Cooper, of India Street, Montrose, in Angus, was trapped in the cab pinned by the steering wheel. His breathing was shallow and he was unconscious but after firefighters removed the cab structure no trace of a heartbeat could be found.

He was later found to have suffered a fractured skull and bleeding within the brain along with other injuries.

MacDonald, of Strathspey Avenue, Aviemore, Inverness-shire, was thrown from the cab of his vehicle resulting in the loss of his right leg below the knee and a fracture to the left leg.

Mr O'Rourke said that both the passengers in MacDonald's tanker, Mr McLean and Anthony Mackin, who were both 19 at the time, were able to climb out of the cab and "astonishingly" suffered only minor injuries.

Both vehicles were travelling at 56mph, the maximum allowed by their speed limiters, while a 40mph limit applied to their class of vehicle on the stretch of road.

The advocate depute told the court: "The collision happened because the accused appears to have fallen asleep at the wheel, having failed to have regard to the statutory periods of rest set down for HGV drivers."

Defence counsel Barry Smith said: "Mr MacDonald wishes me to make plain to the court and to record his sincere remorse for the unnecessary loss of life caused by his actions."

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