A lorry driver caused a fatal head-on collision when he drove on the wrong side of the road shortly after stopping off for a break, Lincoln Crown Court heard on Wednesday.
Tiberiu Dori parked up for 40 minutes in a layby alongside the A15 near Cranwell before setting off to continue his journey to Wiltshire.
But within a minute, his Volvo HGV was on the wrong side of the road and he struck an approaching BMW being driven by respected RAF serviceman Chris Showell.
Cpl Showell, who was on his way to work as a chef at RAF Waddington, had no chance to avoid a collision with the front of his vehicle ending up embedded in the lorry. He suffered fatal injuries.
Andrew Scott, prosecuting, said that Dori was working a night shift and had driven a lorry load of eggs from Chippenham to Milton Keynes, where he dropped them off at a Waitrose store.
He then continued his shift driving on to Scopwick where he picked up a new load of 300,000 eggs and was heading back to his base at Chippenham.
Mr Scott said: “The collision occurred on Mr Showell’s side of the road. The Volvo lorry was completely on the wrong side of the road.”
The prosecutor said Dori had parked in a layby on the opposite side of the road to the carriageway he was driving in and the more likely reason for what happened is that he set off after his break on the wrong side of the road.
The fatal collision occurred just 200 metres from the layby.
“The defendant was perhaps operating on auto-pilot thinking he was driving on the continent.
“The other possibility is that Dori was driving on his correct side of the road and has then allowed his vehicle to drift onto the wrong side of the road. The prosecution does not have all the pieces of the jigsaw and accepts it is impossible to say what happened.”
Mr Scott said that the more likely scenario is that Dori set off on the wrong side of the road.
The court heard that tests showed Dori had not been drinking or taking alcohol and he was not speeding. His mobile phone was checked and he had not been using it at the time of the collision. The lorry tachograph records showed he was driving within his permitted hours.
Dori denied that he had travelled on the wrong side of the road from leaving the layby and said that he set off on his correct side and then ended up on the opposite carriageway.
He admitted responsibility for the fatal collision and his barrister Christopher Martin said: “He genuinely cannot explain why the collision occurred.
“He was driving at 29mph at the point of the collision. He had travelled 200 metres. The time taken to travel that distance was less than a minute.”
Mr Martin said Dori drove 60,000 miles a year for work and had an exemplary driving record with a clean licence both in the UK and in his native country of Romania.
“He was intending to drive to the nearest petrol station and get himself a coffee. He does not know how his vehicle went onto the wrong side of the road.”
Dori, 34, of Devizes, Wiltshire, admitted causing death by dangerous driving as a result of the collision on the A15 at Dunsby Hollow, Lincolnshire, just before 5am on April 16, 2020.
He was jailed for 20 months and banned from driving for two years and 10 months. He was also ordered to pass an extended retest before he can legally drive again.
Recorder Charles Falk said he could not be certain of the circumstances and he sentenced on the basis that Dori set off on his correct side of the road and then went onto the wrong side.
The Recorder told Dori: “Driving an HGV completely on the wrong side of a fast moving road is obviously going to have devastating consequences for anyone coming the other way.
“All I can be sure about is that this was a few minutes of inattention but as a professional driver this was a serious lapse.”
“Christopher Showell never stood a chance. There was a head-on collision and in all likelihood he died instantly. His death is entirely your fault.
Cpl Showell’s fiancee Annie Hickman, in a victim impact statement, said she has been left devastated by his death.
“I miss him every minute of every day. His laughter, his amazing food, his love and kindness. I will love and miss him every day for the rest of my life.”
Lincolnshire Police said they do not have a custody photo of Tiberiu Dori.