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Jury retires in trial of death crash trucker accused of falling asleep at the wheel

Rhys Gardiner

A JURY in the trial of a man accused of causing a fellow trucker’s death on the A66 by “falling asleep at the wheel” has retired to consider its verdict.

Rhys Gardiner, 24, admits that his carelessness behind the wheel of a Mercedes lorry led to the death of 72-year-old Tim Harkness, a husband, father and grandfather from Carlisle. But Gardiner denies his driving on what was his first A66 journey was dangerous.

Jurors in Gardiner’s trial at Carlisle Crown Court have heard his westbound Superdrug HGV crossed the central white line briefly before drifting left and partially off the carriageway for more than 100 metres. His vehicle fully rejoined the A66, crossed on to the wrong side of the road and collided with the oncoming Renault lorry driven by Mr Harkness, who died.

The prosecution has alleged Gardiner “fell asleep at the wheel” moments before a tragic crash which occurred in darkness just after 5-40am on Tuesday, 3rd April, 2018. He’d sent what prosecutor Tim Evans alleged was a “highly significant” 2-32am text to his girlfriend an hour before he started his fateful journey which read: “Tired lol.”

A police collision investigator concluded of Gardiner: “In my opinion, the explanation that fits with all the evidence is that he has fallen asleep.”

But, giving his account of the incident from the witness box, Gardner, of Old Hall Road, Bentley, near Doncaster, recalled ”I felt I was in a fit state to drive”, and insisted: “I wasn’t asleep. I was trying to correct.”

Addressing jurors this morning (MON), Recorder Eric Lamb stated: “There is no doubt that the defendant’s driving was a cause of the death of Timothy Harkness. But he says that while the standard of his driving fell below that of a competent and careful driver, he did not fall far below the standard of a competent and careful driver.”

Recorder Lamb stated: “Where there is conflicting evidence, you must decide how reliable, honest and accurate each witness is.” He also noted that such court cases evoked sympathy, but warned: “You must not let such feelings influence you when you are considering your verdict.”

The jury then retired to begin its deliberations.

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