Lorry driver distracted by hands-free call when he killed RAF pilot is jailed for three years

Lorry driver distracted by hands-free call when he killed RAF pilot who had stopped on M40 to help injured motorist is jailed for three years

  • Malcolm Clarkson, 44, ploughed his HGV into the back of Scott McConnell, 26
  • Sergeant McConnell had stopped his VW Golf to help a driver who had crashed 
  • Incident took place on northbound M40 near Warwick on November 19, 2019
  • Clarkson, of Merseyside, jailed three-and-a-half years at Warwick Crown Court

By Milly Vincent For Mailonline

Published: 12:57, 10 March 2021 | Updated: 14:19, 10 March 2021

Malcolm Clarkson, 44, of Merseyside, was jailed three-and-a-half years at Warwick Crown Court (pictured outside court)

A lorry driver who was distracted talking to his mother on a hands-free call when he killed a good-samaritan RAF pilot who had stopped to help an injured motorist has been jailed. 

Malcolm Clarkson, 44, crashed his HGV into the back of Scott McConnell, 26, who was sat in his VW Golf with hazard lights on after stopping to help another driver who had crashed.

Sergeant McConnell stopped to check on another driver after witnessing a collision between a white van and a Royal Mail lorry on the M40 northbound near Warwick at 10.15pm on November 19, 2019. 

The RAF pilot was sitting in his stationary car dialling 999 when HGV driver Clarkson smashed into the back of his vehicle while travelling 61mph.

Paramedics performed CPR on Sergeant McConnell at the scene before rushing him to hospital with multiple head and neck injuries but he died the next morning.

Sergeant McConnell had just qualified as an RAF pilot and was just days away from fulfilling his lifetime ambition of being one of the aircrew onboard a Chinook helicopter when he died.

On Friday, March 5 2021, Clarkson, of Southport, Merseyside, was jailed for three-and-a-half years after he admitted causing death by dangerous driving at Warwick Crown Court.

Lorry driver distracted by hands-free call when he killed RAF pilot is jailed for three years

Scott McConnell, 26, had just qualified as an RAF pilot and was just days away from fulfilling his lifetime ambition of being one of the aircrew onboard a Chinook helicopter when he died

Judge Anthony Potter told him: ‘HGV drivers like you owe a particular responsibility to other road-users because an error in their control can be so catastrophic.

‘Scott McConnell had only recently graduated from the Defence Helicopter Flying School, and was only days away from fulfilling his ambition by taking up a position as a member of the aircrew on a Chinook helicopter.

‘He pulled over behind the stricken van and positioned his car and put his hazard lights on.

‘His action in showing consideration for other road-users was entirely in character.

‘A student was following you, and his view of the road was poorer, but he saw Mr McConnell’s hazard lights.

‘You plainly should have had a better view, but you did not seek to slow your vehicle or to move over.

Lorry driver distracted by hands-free call when he killed RAF pilot is jailed for three years

 Clarkson had been on a hands-free phone call with his mother when the crash took place

‘In fact you were accelerating, and it was less than a second before colliding with Mr McConnell’s vehicle that you applied your brakes.

‘You were on the phone, hands-free, to your mother.

‘I am quite satisfied that was at least a factor in taking your attention away from the road.

‘He was a young man at the very start of his adult life, and that life has been taken away from him, and his family have been left with their anger and pain and grief.

‘I have no doubt you are very sorry, but nothing you can do and nothing I can do can take away the pain the family suffers and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.’

Clarkson was also banned from driving for six years and nine months.

The court heard Clarkson only braked 24m (78ft) before ploughing into Sgt McConnell’s car.

Grace Ong, prosecuting, said: ‘At the time 26-year-old Mr McConnell was an air crew sergeant in the RAF, having graduated from the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury, and was due to begin a posting in Chinook helicopter at RAF Benson.

Lorry driver distracted by hands-free call when he killed RAF pilot is jailed for three years

A stretch of the M40 (pictured).

The incident took place on the northbound M40 near Warwick on November 19, 2019

‘On 19 November 2019 at 10.15pm a white van driven by Colin Beckett collided with a Royal Mail lorry on the M40 northbound near to Warwick Services between junctions 12 and 13.

‘The lorry pulled onto the hard shoulder, but the van was stationary in lane one when Mr McConnell came on the scene.

‘He pulled up behind the van so his VW Golf was half on the hard shoulder and half in lane one, and put his hazard lights on to warn other drivers as he went to check on Mr Beckett.

‘He then returned to his car and sat in the passenger seat to call the emergency services.

‘The call lasted three minutes and 15 seconds before a Scania HGV driven by Clarkson ploughed into the back of the car, which had been perfectly visible to other drivers.

Lorry driver distracted by hands-free call when he killed RAF pilot is jailed for three years

On Friday, March 5, Clarkson, of Southport, Merseyside, was jailed three-and-a-half years after he admitted causing death by dangerous driving at Warwick Crown Court (court pictured)

‘It was found that as he approached the scene Clarkson, who was on his phone hands-free to his mother, had been doing 61mph – and he was just 24 metres from the Golf when he braked.

‘It was far too late, and the artic hit the car, sending it rotating into the back of the white van before both of them ended up on the hard shoulder.’

The court heard Clarkson had previous convictions for offences including falsifying his mileage and supplying drugs.

Andrew Nuttall, defending, said: ‘The defendant fully accepts his guilt.

He never wanted to hurt anyone.

‘He doesn’t actually know what happened to him, but accepts it was his fault.

‘The consequence of his driving will live with him forever.

He cannot do anything other than say over and over again that he is sorry.

‘He recognises he will go to custody, and he feels that it is right that he should be punished.’

Speaking after the sentence Police Staff Investigator Liam Ryan said: ‘This is a particularly tragic case as Scott was trying to protect another driver when he was killed.

‘The collision occurred when Malcolm Clarkson had just finished speaking to his mum on the hands free system in the cab.

‘The Forensic Collision Investigation report concluded that the Scania braked just 24 metres or 1 second prior to the impact.

‘There is no doubt that being on the phone hands free moments before the collision distracted Clarkson to the extent that he was unable to react to the road ahead as he was not giving it his full attention.

‘This had fatal consequences for Scott, a young promising adult who was doing what he could to help another road user.

‘Whilst the sentence demonstrates the seriousness of this offence, and Scott’s family can be proud of his actions, unfortunately nothing can bring Scott back to his family.’