A trucker who crashed into a disabled car and killed three people moments after watching a seven-minute Ladbible video and while typing on a sat-nav app on his mobile phone has been jailed for 12 years.
Michal Kopaniarz previously pleaded guilty to three counts of causing death by dangerous driving in connection with the four-vehicle crash on the A303 near Andover, Hampshire on August 25, 2021.
The 39-year-old also admitted perverting the course of justice by smashing the Samsung mobile phone he had been using.
College graduate Alex Britton, 28, food delivery driver Tina Ince, 58, and recovery driver Tom Watson, 30, died of “catastrophic injuries.”
Simon Jones, the prosecutor, told Winchester Crown Court that Ms Britton’s Vauxhall Astra had broken down and Ms Ince, from Southampton, had stopped in her Mercedes Sprinter food delivery van to help her.
The recovery driver, Mr. Watson, also stopped when he saw that the stopped vehicles were still partially on the road.
He was about to load the Astra into his recovery vehicle when the defendant’s heavy vehicle, traveling at 56 mph, crashed into the rear of the food truck that had its hazard lights on.
This swerved the Mercedes into the Astra, killing the three victims who were standing between the vehicles, Jones said.
The prosecutor said Kopaniarz had watched a seven-minute Facebook Ladbible video on his phone that he had shared with a woman on Facebook Messenger 42 seconds before the crash.
And at the point of impact, the defendant had been typing his trip destination, a Co-op water bottle depot in Andover, into a mapping app.
Defendant continued to drive at 56 mph when the collision occurred and only applied emergency braking approximately 0.2 to 0.5 seconds or 9 to 12 meters before impact despite having a clear view of the vehicles for 170 m. .
The court was shown dash cam footage of Kopaniarz’s truck as it drove into stopped traffic and failed to slow down before the collision.
After the accident, Kopaniarz was captured on dash cam footage breaking his Samsung phone into two parts which police later pieced together to get the data.
Jones said: “From the time of this collision, Defendant’s actions were directed at destroying evidence that he knew implicated him and points to his guilt and dangerous driving.
“Although he said he did not see, the reality is that the reason is that he was using his phone.”
Several members of the victims’ families paid moving tributes to their loved ones in the packed courtroom.
Aaron Law, who was engaged to his childhood sweetheart Ms. Britton, mother of his two young daughters, spoke directly looking at the defendant and said: “My life, my daughters’ lives have been ruined, changed forever.
“No one can prepare to have to tell their three year old daughter that her mother has died and she will never come home, there are no words I can find to describe how she felt.”
Wiping away tears, he added: “I fight to take care of my broken family in their time of need, I am a broken man, a shell.”
Law said he would “never forgive” the defendant for the pain caused by his lies after the accident by saying the brakes had failed on the heavy vehicle.
He added: “You took my future wife, you took my best friend, you took the mother of my children, you stole our happily ever after.”
Avril Swain, the mother of Ms Britton, from Portsmouth, who wanted to be a teacher, said: “I am enraged that they were killed for such a pointless thing.
“The hole that Alex has left is immense.”
Emma Watson, the widow of Mr Watson, from Southampton, said: “I miss him every second of every day, this has changed my life, I don’t sleep very well and wake up in the early hours of the morning thinking about life and happiness. that we had planned.
“Tom was amazing with the kids, he would have been a great father, he wanted us to start a family together, grow old together, you’ve stolen that from us.”
Ms Ince’s daughter, Melissa Green, said: “She was a kind, generous and selfless woman who always put others before herself.”
Advocate Adrienne Knight said the defendant, who had been a truck driver for eight years, takes “full responsibility” for the accident.
In a letter to the court, he wrote: “I have a life sentence with heartbreaking regret and soul-wrenching sadness that will never fade, an impossible torment that I will carry as my cross until the end of my days.
“There are no words to describe how sorry I am.”
Sentencing Kopaniarz, who grew up in Poland and lived in Donnington, Shropshire, Judge Angela Morris told him: “Watching a video on a mobile phone while driving is breaking the law.
“The fact that it has done so over a period of time shows a regrettable lack of respect for traffic regulations and the safety of other road users.”
Describing his vehicle as a “lethal weapon,” he added: “Being in an articulated truck, you definitely felt invincible.”
She continued: “The aggravating factor is that three people lost their lives in the catastrophic manner shown in the dash cam footage.”
Speaking after the hearing, Hampshire Police Detective Constable Cate Paling said: “This was a catastrophic loss of life.
“Kopaniarz killed three people because he was using his mobile phone and was not paying attention to the road.
“The devastating consequences of their selfish actions have separated three families.
“While today’s sentence will not ease their pain, we are pleased that our investigation has provided answers and justice for the loved ones of Alex, Tina and Tom.
“More than anything, I hope that other drivers who think there is no harm in using their phone while driving will consider this case and learn from it.
“Nothing on your phone could be important enough to risk killing another person.”
The judge also banned the defendant from driving for 16 years and ordered him to undergo a lengthy retest before he could drive again.