Lorry driver who caused A19 smash that killed factory worker John Robinson jailed for three years

A lorry driver who caused a fatal crash which killed a 24-year-old when he brought his vehicle to a sudden stop on a dual carriageway has been jailed.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 2:26 pm
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 3:42 pm

Marcel Balan's refrigerated DAF HGV came to a halt in the dark on the A19 and caused John Robinson to smash his Ford Fusion into the back of it just three seconds later.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the force of the collision, which happened last March, pushed the lorry eight meters along the dual carriageway and Mr Robinson's Ford went underneath it.

The much loved son, from Peterlee, who was travelling home from work at Faltec in Boldon, died from severe head injuries.

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Marcel Balan

Balan, 57, of Cope Street, Barnsley, told jurors during a trial he had brought his lorry to a safe and slow standstill because he feared his cargo had come loose and he wanted to avoid "catastrophe".

He was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

Judge Penny Moreland jailed Balan for three years and banned him from the roads for four years.

Balan, who has been making deliveries for a coffee shop train and was travelling from South Shields to Sunderland, must pass an extended driving test before he can get back behind the wheel.

John Robinson.

The judge told him: "John Robinson was a young man with everything to live for.

"Those closest to him have suffered a grievous loss with which they must live for the rest of their lives.

"Nothing that anyone can do or say will return him to them."

Judge Moreland said she was satisfied Balan had applied "moderate to heavy" braking and added: "I have formed the view you intended to remain in the carriageway while you got out of your cab to go to the rear of the vehicle intending, presumably, to take time to rectify any problem with the lorry or its load.

Marcel Balan's lorry

"You chose to stop the lorry at night, on an unlit dual carriageway in circumstances which I think it would be difficult for a driver following you to comprehend what was happening in the seconds before the collision."

After the guilty verdict last month, Mr Robinson's mum Louise, who attended the trial daily with her husband Terence and other loved ones, read a heartbreaking statement from the family.

Speaking from the witness box, Louise Robinson said even writing a statement about the loss of her son was "traumatic".

Mrs Robinson said she and her husband had been asleep in bed when police came to the door in the hours after the crash with "the worst news for a parent to receive".

Marcel Balan

The couple were then taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital to identify their son.

The grieving mum said: "As he lay in the mortuary we just wanted to hug him but we were not allowed in that room at that time."

Mrs Robinson said she and her husband then had to break the devastating news to her other son Mark, his wife Katie and the rest of the family and friends.Mrs Robinson said she and the close family were eventually allowed to see her son "properly" and added: "This time was precious to us but at the same time it was traumatic to see our young, beautiful John, who were love so much, broken and lifeless."

Mrs Robinson said her son had travelled around Northern Europe and enjoyed embracing different cultures and scenery.

She said her son was "handsome, tall", loved his family, God, music, nature and world foods and added: "He was an honest, principled, young man with high moral standards.

"John was funny. He would say hilarious things and crack me up.

"The feeling of sadness, that something is missing, something is wrong, this will effect us for the rest of our lives.

"We will always miss John and we will always love John."

In the statement, Mr Robinson's brother Mark Robinson described his sibling as a "selfless man, kind, generous hard working, with big plans for the future."

He added: "He had a big heart and I am so proud to be his brother.

"He brought a light into the lives of everyone who knew him."The world is a worse place without him."

Mr Robinson's dad Terence said being a father to him brought "great joy" and added: "Out of the sadness of this tragic situation, were are left with an empty feeling inside but both of our hearts are full of the loving memories John has given us."

Mr Robinson's girlfriend Jade Bowden read her own statement from the witness box and said they had planned to get engaged and later marry and described him as "my number one person".

She added that the pain hit her "instantly" when she was told Mr Robinson had died and she finds each day a struggle without him.

She added: "Life without John is unbearable."

Gavin Doig, defending, said Balan has been a full-time lorry driver for 36 years and covered approximately six million kilometres during his career, without incident.

Mr Doig said: "You are unlikely ever to hear of a better driving record."

Mr Doig said Balan had tried to help after the crash and was "traumatised" by what happened.

He added: "Mr Balan could not be more remorseful for the death of the entirely innocent John Robinson."

Balan handed in references from his sons, who both have good jobs in Romania, which describe him as a "good man who has found himself in a terrible situation".

Mr Doig said Balan, who has never been in trouble before, claims he is the "only Romanian in Durham prison", speaks very little English and will struggle in custody.