Truck driver who ran into Canadian oil tycoon, 80, taking part in vintage car rally is jailed

A lorry driver who rammed and killed a millionaire Canadian oil tycoon taking part in the London to Brighton vintage rally has been jailed for 20 months after he was caught using his phone while driving.

Ronald Carey, 80, was killed and his wife Billi seriously injured after being thrown from their 118-year-old vintage vehicle when it was rammed by a truck on November 3, 2019.

Michael Black, 52, was driving a dump truck as he worked to convert the M23 into a ‘smart highway’ when he crashed into the 1903 Knox Model C shortly after 10am.

The vintage vehicle, which had no front windscreen, door or roof and a top speed of 30mph, ended up on the motorway after Mr Carey mistakenly drove onto the ramp of access to the M23, instead of the designated rally route on the A23.

Black had just picked up a load of trash from the northbound causeway and was about to put it down when he turned around and started heading south.

Shortly after, his huge Scania vehicle slammed into the couple’s vehicle, which was only traveling at around 20mph, in the third lane of the motorway near Merstham, Surrey.

Detectives then analyzed Black’s cell phone and discovered that a phone call had been made to a friend at the time of the collision.

He denied causing the death by careless driving but was today jailed for 20 months and banned from driving for 22 months at Guildford Crown Court.

Michael Black, 52, was driving a dump truck on the M23 when he caused the death of Ronald Carey, 80, by reckless driving

Mr Carey was driving a 1903 Knox Runabout 'Old Porcupine' vehicle with his wife Billi.  This photograph is believed to have been taken hours before his death

Mr Carey was driving a 1903 Knox Runabout ‘Old Porcupine’ vehicle with his wife Billi. This photograph is believed to have been taken hours before his death

Mr Carey, pictured with his wife Billi, was described as

Mr Carey, pictured with his wife Billi, was described as ‘highly respected and valued’

The London-Brighton Veteran <a class=Car Run route is shown in green, while the route which Mr Carey would have taken yesterday is shown in red.” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

The London-Brighton Veteran Car Run route is shown in green, while the route which Mr Carey would have taken yesterday is shown in red.

He had previously been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

The court heard Black, of Crawley, Sussex, claimed he was unaware it was illegal to ‘tap’ a mobile phone while driving.

He also claimed that he didn’t see the car in front of him until it was too late because the sun was distracting him.

The truck driver told the jury that the phenomenon known as ‘threat’, which makes distant objects appear hovering, caused him not to notice the vintage vehicle before it was too late.

The driver, Mr Carey, and his wife in the passenger seat were ejected from their vintage vehicle.

Mr Carey suffered life-threatening injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, while Ms Carey was airlifted to hospital with life-threatening head injuries,

Scott Brady, prosecuting, refers to Ms Carey’s victim impact statement at today’s sentencing hearing.

He told the court: ‘The last thing she remembered was having a jovial conversation with her husband about a little inside joke.

“She reports on her husband: he was an intelligent and dynamic man who achieved much success during his years on this Earth.

“He was in every way a self-made man. He was an inventor, businessman, collector, historian, philanthropist, fundraiser, protector and, above all, a loving husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather.

“He had an immensely young spirit.”

The widow continued: “My life has been drastically altered.

“I’ve heard many times that time will heal, but that’s not true.

“Ron’s death may be further from the present, but the sense of loss, sadness and loneliness is just as real and painful today.

“The day he died, I lost my husband, my best friend and my future.”

Les Careys on the Mall at the start of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in November 2019

Les Careys on the Mall at the start of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in November 2019

A listing of Mr and Mrs Carey's vehicle on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run website, which indicates it was registered in Arizona, has since been removed.

A listing of Mr and Mrs Carey’s vehicle on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run website, which indicates it was registered in Arizona, has since been removed.

Police officers, accompanied by a road maintenance vehicle, are pictured at the scene of the M23 crash in November 2019

Police officers, accompanied by a road maintenance vehicle, are pictured at the scene of the M23 crash in November 2019

The Canadian couple took the wrong lane and ended up on the M23 instead of the designated A23 road used for the rally

The Canadian couple took the wrong lane and ended up on the M23 instead of the designated A23 road used for the rally

Michael Rawlinson, representing Black, said in mitigation that the defendant was “not just of good character, but of positive character”.

He added: “He officially worked for [HMRC] in law enforcement and had an exemplary driving record for many years as a professional driver.

“He drove loads of people, children, celebrities, without incident without the slightest suggestion that his driving was irresponsible, let alone dangerous or reckless.

“This case shows that a short deviation from otherwise high standards in an otherwise blameless life can have devastating consequences.”

Sentencing today, Judge Patricia Lees said the case was ‘a tragedy for everyone involved’.

She told the court: ‘A life was lost because of your decision to make an unnecessary and illegal phone call whilst driving a tipper on the A23.

“The personal victim statement written by Ms. Carey describes the impact of what you did and the loss of her closest family members that they suffered individually and collectively.

“This is an extremely touching statement made by Ms. Carey not only in regard to her terrible loss, but also on behalf of the family members who still mourn their husbands, fathers, father-in-laws and grandfathers.”

She continued, “You got distracted looking at your phone. It meant you weren’t concentrating on the car in front of you on the road and reacting early enough to slow down, change lanes like the other cars had.

“It appears the phone call had no element of urgency or necessity. The call itself never connected and the phone was still ringing when the collision occurred.

“When the accident happened you picked up the phone and ended that call and then you called the emergency services.

“In my opinion, this amounts to reckless or reckless driving which is not far from dangerous driving.”

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