Lorry driver jailed for causing head-on collision that killed RAF chef

A lorry driver who caused a fatal head-on collision near Sleaford when he drove on the wrong side of the road shortly after stopping off for a break has been jailed.

The scene of the fatal collision on the A15 north of the turning for Cranwell last April. EMN-210421-164248001
The scene of the fatal collision on the A15 north of the turning for Cranwell last April. EMN-210421-164248001

Lincoln Crown Court has heard this afternoon (Wednesday) that Tiberiu Dori parked up for 40 minutes in a layby alongside the A15 near Cranwell before setting off to continue his journey to Wiltshire.

But within a minute his Volvo HGV was on the wrong side of the road and he struck an approaching BMW being driven by respected RAF serviceman Chris Showell.

Cpl Showell, who was on his way to work as a chef at RAF Waddington, had no chance to avoid a collision with the front of his vehicle ending up embedded in the lorry and he suffered fatal injuries.

The A15 blocked north of Cranwell after the fatal collision a year ago. EMN-210421-164237001

Andrew Scott, prosecuting, said that Dori was working a night shift and had driven a lorry load of eggs from Chippenham to Milton Keynes where he dropped them off at a Waitrose store.

He then continued his shift driving on to Scopwick where he picked up a new load of 300,000 eggs and was heading back to his base at Chippenham.

Mr Scott said: “The collision occurred on Mr Showell’s side of the road. The Volvo lorry was completely on the wrong side of the road.”

The prosecutor said Dori had parked in a layby on the opposite side of the road to the carriageway he was driving in and the more likely reason for what happened is that he set off after his break on the wrong side of the road.

Cpl Chris Showell. Photo: RAF Waddington. EMN-210421-164910001

The fatal collision occurred just 200 metres from the layby.

“The defendant was perhaps operating on auto-pilot thinking he was driving on the continent.

“The other possibility is that Dori was driving on his correct side of the road and has then allowed his vehicle to drift onto the wrong side of the road. The prosecution does not have all the pieces of the jigsaw and accepts it is impossible to say what happened.”

Mr Scott said that the more likely scenario is that Dori set off on the wrong side of the road.

The court heard that tests showed Dori had not been drinking or taking alcohol and he was not speeding. His mobile phone was checked and he had not been using it at the time of the collision. The lorry tachograph records showed he was driving within his permitted hours.

Dori denied that he had travelled on the wrong side of the road from leaving the layby and said that he set off on his correct side and then ended up on the opposite carriageway.

He admitted responsibility for the fatal collision and his barrister Christopher Martin said: “He genuinely cannot explain why the collision occurred.

“He was driving at 29 mph at the point of the collision. He had travelled 200 metres. The time taken to travel that distance was less than a minute.”

Mr Martin said Dori drove 60,000 miles a year for work and had an exemplary driving record with a clean licence both in the UK and in his native country of Romania.

“He was intending to drive to the nearest petrol station and get himself a coffee. He does not know how his vehicle went onto the wrong side of the road.”

Dori, 34, of Devizes, Wiltshire, admitted causing death by dangerous driving as a result of the collision on the A15 at Dunsby Hollow, Lincs, just before 5am on April 16, 2020.

He was jailed for 20 months and banned from driving for two years and 10 months. He was also ordered to pass an extended retest before he can legally drive again.

Recorder Charles Falk said he could not be certain of the circumstances and he sentenced on the basis that Dori set off on his correct side of the road and then went onto the wrong side.

The Recorder told Dori: “Driving an HGV completely on the wrong side of a fast moving road is obviously going to have devastating consequences for anyone coming the other way.

“All I can be sure about is that this was a few minutes of inattention, but as a professional driver this was a serious lapse.

“Christopher Showell never stood a chance. There was a head-on collision and in all likelihood he died instantly. His death is entirely your fault.

Cpl Showell’s fiancee Annie Hickman, in a victim impact statement, said she has been left devastated by his death.

“I miss him every minute of every day. His laughter, his amazing food, his love and kindness. I will love and miss him every day for the rest of my life.”

In a statement following his death, RAF Waddington said Cpl Showell joined the Royal Air Force in 2004 and was the Junior Non-Commissioned Officer in Command of In-Flight Catering and had worked at RAF Waddington since January 2018.

Station Commander, Group Captain Kilvington, said: “Chris had been an important member of the Catering Squadron, working in most of the messes at RAF Waddington during the last two years. In every role, his professionalism and commitment helped improve working practises, delivery and teamwork. A superb chef and a highly regarded member of each team he worked in, Chris will be profoundly missed.”

Chris’s colleagues within Catering Squadron added: “He will always be remembered for being a highly capable chef; someone who was always dependable, hard-working and honest in all his endeavours. A quiet character, he nevertheless had a wicked sense of humour once you got to know him and he was hugely popular across the Squadron. Always having time for others, he will be greatly missed by us all.”

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