A LORRY driver who ploughed into the back of a broken-down car killing a Sunderland nurse blamed the crash on a sneezing fit, a court heard.
Christopher Lewis, 43, smashed into the stationary Nissan Almera in his 44-tonne truck on the A1(M) in North Yorkshire three days after Christmas last year.
A jury heard yesterday that Mr Lewis should have been able to see the car for at least 30 seconds before the crash – but braked just a split second before it.
Prosecutor David Brooke told Teesside Crown Court how Gordon Blair, 50, was standing at the back of his vehicle – in the inside lane – and was killed instantly.
Mr Brooke said the victim, a psychiatric nurse from Sunderland, contributed to the accident with his apparent lack of road sense, but should not be blamed.
He told the jury: “You are not here to judge the actions of Gordon Blair. He is not on trial. The defendant is on trial and it is very important you remember that.”
The court heard how a number of other drivers – some in lorries – took evasive action and either overtook the broken-down hatchback or passed it on the inside.
Mr Brooke told the jury of seven men and five women: “As far as he was concerned, the lorry driver had a long time to see the vehicle and did not stop.
“He would not have expected to have seen a car in those circumstances, just like all the other drivers... but you have to be prepared for the unexpected.
“One notable feature is that they all saw the vehicle and all did something about it. As you will hear, he didn’t see it before he braked a split-second before crashing.”
Mr Brooke told the court that a number of worried motorists dialled 999 after seeing the Almera broken down on the inside lane and Mr Blair standing alongside it.
After the crash, near the A59 Allerton Park turn-off, Mr Lewis called the police and told the operator he had been sneezing for 15 seconds and did not see the car at all.
Mr Brook said he later told a paramedic at the scene of the horror: “I sneezed and when I opened my eyes, the vehicle was in front of me.”
Mr Lewis, of Chantry Road, Northallerton, denies charges of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving.
Mr Blair, who worked at the Ashwood Court care home, was travelling to West Yorkshire to see his parents for Christmas.
The court heard that his car had been poorly maintained and a massive oil leak caused it to slow down and then break down.