HGV driver killed Tom Harker while using his mobile at 55mph on the A66

A LORRY driver who smashed into the rear of a horsebox at more than 50mph had been logging onto his online bank account seconds before the impact. Jordan Leonard was travelling along the A66 near Darlington when he failed to notice Tom Harker slowing down to pull into the entrance to his farm. The force of the collision threw Mr Harker through the windscreen of his vehicle before he was crushed underneath the horsebox as it came to a shuddering stop.

The heavy goods vehicle ploughing into the wall at the farm’s entrance was so significant that people in the home could feel it’s reverberations, Teesside Crown Court heard. Mr Harker’s wife, Susan, said her husband’s death had left behind a huge void in her life and had caused fall-outs within the family.

In a heartbreaking personal victim statement, his wife of more than 40 years said their grandson was the first on the scene and realised that Mr Harker had lost his life. She said: “At that moment my whole world stopped, it literally felt like time had stood still. “Tom was my life, we had been together more than 40 years, we lived together, we worked together and did everything together – to find out he had gone was unimaginable.”

Mrs Harker said the loss of her husband had resulted in her selling up the business, a decision she says robbed her grandson of his dream of taking over the family firm. Nick Dry, prosecuting, told the court how Leonard had been distracted while using his mobile phone to log onto his bank and failed to see Mr Harker’s brake lights illuminated for seven seconds before smashing into the rear of the horsebox at 54mph. HGV driver killed Tom Harker while using his mobile at 55mph on the A66

Emergency workers at the scene of the crash. Picture: TEESSIDE GAZETTE Mr Dry said Leonard’s phone was seized by police and it showed that his bank account had become active four seconds after the collision but the defendant had no recollection of the crash.

He said: “The tachograph in the HGV showed that of that 15 seconds (while Mr Harker slowed down) it didn’t change speed of 55mph, slowing only in the last second to 54mph.” He added: “He had failed to notice Mr Harker slowing down due to his mobile phone which was loading up at the time of the collision.” Pathologist Nigel Cooper’s report said he didn’t believe Mr Harker would have suffered the fatal injuries if he had been wearing a seatbelt at the time.

Mrs Harker left the court while CCTV footage of the accident was shown to the judge. The court heard that Mr Harker and his family are prominent members of the region’s Traveller community. Leonard, of Minerva Close, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

Adam Birkby, in mitigation, said his client had shown remorse but realised the devastating consequences of his driving would continue to impact on Mr Harker’s family. He said: “He accepts full responsibility for causing the death of Thomas Harker.” Judge Howard Crowson jailed Leonard for two years and banned him from driving for four years.

“Mrs Harker has lost a loving husband and nothing will fill that void and she has had to watch family members struggle,” he said. “You didn’t see that Thomas Harker was slowing down until a moment before the collision occurred.”

He added: “The danger of driving while looking at mobile phones is all too obvious and the danger is only increased when driving a HGV.”

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