A Polish trucker who fell asleep at the wheel was jailed today (Wednesday, December 6) for five years and four months after killing an NHS driver in a pile-up near St Albans.
Sergiusz Rajca, 40, started work at 4am, having spent the night trying to talk to his girlfriend on the phone.
He was making his second trip from Dunstable to St Albans in a 19.6-tonne waste disposal truck when, at around 9am on March 2, 2020, he failed to brake at a roundabout on the A414 North Orbital Road.
Prosecutor Jessica Goldring told St Albans Crown Court that the truck crashed at 56mph into the back of an NHS Citroen multi-purpose vehicle driven by Dilip Patel, who was in his 60s. Mr Patel suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.
The Citroen was pushed into the back of another car, causing the 80-year-old driver to suffer a broken rib. Two van drivers were also injured as their vehicles were struck.
Rajca, who had been living in Luton, was cautioned by the police and fell asleep in a car on the way to the police station.
When his phone was examined, officers calculated that the most sleep he had before midnight was two hours and 11 minutes and the most after midnight was three hours.
He had made five calls to his partner between 9.16pm and 9.52pm. He had tried again at midnight and a further three times between 3.40am and 3.45am.
Ms Goldring said Rajca was bailed by the police with a condition to surrender his passport. The bail expired after three months, his passport was returned and he was released under investigation.
Rajca then went home to Poland and was only extradited to the UK in September this year after a change in Polish law.
Rajca appeared for sentence, having pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.
Defending, Joanna Hardy-Susskind said he had no convictions or cautions in the UK or Poland.
She said: “He communicates his remorse to the family and to those affected by what they saw. It will not undo the pain he has caused. He drove a heavy, dangerous and plainly lethal vehicle while deprived of adequate sleep.”
Jailing him, Judge Caroline Wigin said: “Although your dangerous driving can be measured in seconds, the behaviour that led to this fatal event began the previous night. Knowing that at 4am you would be driving a large HGV weighing 19.6 tonnes, you prioritised your desire to speak to your partner.
“After you had been arrested by the police on the way to the station, you fell asleep in the police car. It was your second trip of the day and you utterly failed to react to a queue of traffic approaching a roundabout. The conditions were clear and you had an unobstructed view. Nobody was at any fault that day except for you.”
The judge said Rajca will be banned from driving for five years following his release from prison.