The heartbroken partner of a man killed in a horrific motorway crash stood before his killer in court and spoke of the devastating impact on her life.
Theresa Clyne recalled the last phone call she shared with Chorley van driver David Hargreaves, 53, moments before his van was crushed between two HGVs on the M55.
READ MORE: Arrest made after driver dies in M55 smash
Taking to the witness stand at Preston’s Sessions House Court, she recalled the harrowing moment she had to tell his son, who was on holiday in Dubai, about the tragedy before having to identify her “soulmate”.
Slovakian HGV driver Dusan Zverka, 35, of Rochdale Road, Manchester, is today starting an eight month jail term.
He sobbed in the dock and hung his head as she described sharing breakfast together and chatting about their upcoming holiday.
The couple, who loved holidays and were due to go away the following week, even spoke again just five minutes after Mr Hargreaves, an EOn employee, left their home to go to a job in Blackpool on May 2 last year.
She said: “We were always ringing each other and chatting nonsense.
“I spoke to him for about five minutes, not realising that would be the last time I ever heard his voice.”
A short time later, Zverka’s Renault Heavy vehicle collided with a line of vehicles waiting to leave the M55 at junction 3 at Kirkham.
Mr Hargreaves, described as a “fun, loving, caring man who was kind and considerate”, suffered severe head, facial and neck injuries when his Ford Fiesta van was crushed between Zverka’s vehicle and another truck.
The court heard the HGV had collided with the rearmost Volkswagen van, which was forced forward into a Ford Focus, and a vehicle caught Mr Hargreaves’ van, causing it to spin sideways on into the path of the HGV, which crushed it against a second HGV.
Three other people were hurt.
Zverka was in tears as he was led into the dock at Preston’s Sessions House Court and sobbed audibly as footage of the impact was played in court.
Prosecuting, Frances McEntee said: “The Crown say he was seemingly oblivious to a line of traffic waiting to exit onto the slip road at junction 3.
“Notwithstanding the fact the rearmost vehicle was displaying its hazard lights, the defendant failed to react until the very last moment, as a consequence of which his vehicle ploughed into the line of waiting traffic.”
Eyewitnesses described hearing a “loud bang and clouds of smoke and debris”.
The court heard by coincidence a number of medical professionals were on the M55 on their way to a conference and were quickly on hand to help, but tragically Mr Hargreaves died at the scene from head injuries, having suffered skull, facial and neck fractures.
Zverka’s tachograph showed he was driving at 56mph up until the last moment before the point of impact and the vehicle was not defective.
He applied his brakes 17 metres away from the impact with the first van.
In her statement, Theresa said a police officer had phoned her and said he would be with her in a few minutes.
She added: “He told me the most devastating news – my beloved David, my best friend, my soulmate had been killed.
She recalled her legs “felt like jelly” and that she had an awful feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She told the court the most upsetting part of all was having to tell his son Matthew, a qualified chartered accountant, and described the pair as best friends.
She added: “David would be so proud of him if he was here now.
“I shouldn’t be reading out this statement, I should be on holiday with David. We loved our holidays together.
“Life without him is very empty.”
Describing the torment of having to identify his body she added: “It is an image that will stay in the front of my mind forever.
“I try to remember the good times but this image always takes precedence.
“My life has changed forever now.”
What judge said
Sitting at Preston Crown Court, Mr Justice Dove jailed Zverka for eight months and banned him from driving for 16 months.
He said that no sentence he imposed could address the loss of Mr Hargreaves.
He said: “I have no doubt that his death leaves a significant and unfillable void in the life of his family and friends. Nothing I do this afternoon can come anywhere close to filling that.
“He had no doubt many years ahead of life which could be fulfilled and precious with family and friends.
“His loss will be felt for years ahead.”
Defending Zverka, Tom Gent said that the driver wished he could turn back time and was desperately sorry.
He said: “This is a tragic case, nothing can ever be done to make amends for this mistake.”