A Darwen HGV driver has caused the death of two people in a tragic A59 accident

A Darwen HGV driver has caused the death of two people in a tragic A59 accident

Christopher Kavanagh, who was on the verge of retirement after a long and unblemished career as a driver, was traveling in his articulated lorry along the A59 in Sawley on October 6, 2022, when a “momentary lapse in concentration and judgement” led to a head-on crash.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Thomas Snape and Margaret Dearden were traveling in the opposite direction of Kavanagh, when he “instinctively” pulled in front of them to try to avoid hitting the back of the lorry, which was signaling to turn right and had stopped in the middle of the road.

Kavanagh, of Martin Drive, Darwen, pleaded guilty to causing the deaths of Thomas Snape and Margaret Dearden by careless driving at Blackburn Crown Court in January.

At a hearing on Thursday (February 22), Richard Dearden, the son of 63-year-old Margaret Dearden, said he and his family offered Kavanagh “leniency” because that is what his mother would have wanted.

A portion of the victim’s personal statement, read out in court, read: “My family does not believe my mother would have wanted the truck driver to go to prison.

“We don’t want this at all. We also know that he was a few months away from retiring, and we also believe that he had the appropriate tests done on the day of the accident.

Although we do not know him, he is a human being first, and none of us is infallible.

He added: “My father, brother and I also forgive him for what happened, and I hope he can forgive himself.”

Mr Snapp and Ms Dearden were traveling along the A59 at Sawley in a Chrysler when the lorry, driven by Kavanagh at 55mph, crossed into their path and collided head-on with their car.

Despite the efforts of emergency services, they were pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident was recorded on the dashcam of the truck the defendant was driving, and showed Kavanagh driving the vehicle in an appropriate manner while following the truck.

Paul Brockwell, prosecuting, said the lorry driver was attempting to turn right and his indicator and brake lights were clearly visible.

Read more: HGV driver tolerance is ‘what a mum wants’

He said: “He was unable to maneuver due to traffic coming in the other direction and stopped.

“Essentially, Kavanagh realized he was approaching the truck but it was too late to respond appropriately.

“When he responded and braked, it was too late. He swerved to the right and entered the path of the car coming in the other direction, and of course the accident happened.”

Kavanagh, 69, had no previous convictions and had a clean driving license before the crash.

To mitigate Kavanagh’s sentence, Rachel Woods told the court: “The defendant has written a short letter which I will read.

“First and foremost, I would like to express my sympathies to the family and friends of Thomas Snape and Margaret Dearden,” the letter read. I was about to retire with an unblemished record for 14 years, and in a split second it changed with tragic consequences. I still have nightmares about it. I know that many lives have been ruined including my own and I will have to live with this forever.

“This was a terrible tragedy caused by the defendant’s error in judgment and concentration in a situation where the consequences were overwhelming.

“He failed to recognize the approaching distance due to the speed at which the car in front of him was traveling.

“Christopher Kavanagh’s reaction at the time he saw the other car indicating that he was going to turn right and stop, although it was not an immediate danger, he should have reacted more quickly than he did, but research shows that drivers do not do that. React to non-immediate risks quickly.

“It was a temporary lapse in concentration and judgement.

“He has been married for 40 years and is now caring for his wife who had a stroke about 20 years ago.

“The impact this crime had on him was enormous.

“I don’t say that in any way to diminish the impact on the families of Thomas Snape or Margaret Dearden because of course it has far-reaching consequences for all people.

“Mr Kavanagh is much loved by his family, friends and neighbours. He is a true, kind and considerate family man.

“The consequences of his driving that morning will have ramifications for the rest of his life.

“He is a man of good character, a man of morals.

“One would expect that any punishment would pale in significance compared to the guilt and the impact it had on him.

“The ripple effect of his leadership for those few moments will continue to have on everyone, especially the defendant who will live the rest of his life knowing that he is responsible for the deaths of two other people, and that is a very heavy burden to live with.

“His family say he is a changed man, he is half the man he was before this happened.”

Judge Sarah Dodd said: “You did not intend to cause the deaths of two people but you did so by temporarily losing concentration while driving your articulated vehicle.

“This case is about you, but it’s not just about you, it’s about Thomas Snape and Margaret Dearden and the impact it has on their families.

“Having seen the CCTV footage, your maneuver was instinctive to try to avoid a collision but it put you in Thomas Snape’s path.

“You were just over the speed limit and were not distracted in any way by your mobile phone or other device.

“You are of course remorseful, and your burden is difficult for you to bear.”

Judge Dodd sentenced Kavanagh to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months.

She added: “Nothing I can do today will undo what happened in that accident.”

Kavanagh must also complete 15 rehabilitation activity days and 140 hours of unpaid work, and is disqualified from driving for 12 months.

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