Dash-cam shows moment killer lorry driver tried to destroy phone that distracted him

Police have released footage of the moment a lorry driver who caused a "catastrophic loss of life" tried to destroy the mobile phone that had distracted him.

Michal Kopaniarz was caught by his dash-cam trying to destroy his mobile phone shortly after killing three people
Michal Kopaniarz was caught by his dash-cam trying to destroy his mobile phone shortly after killing three people

Dash-cam footage from Michal Kopaniarz's HGV captured the moment the 39-year-old broke the phone in half and discarded it on the verge by a dual carriageway shortly after he ploughed into a broken-down car, killing three people.

Kopaniarz, from Park Road, Donnington, was jailed for 12 years at Winchester Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to three charges of causing death by dangerous driving in connection and perverting the course of justice by breaking the Samsung mobile phone he had been using.

The court heard how a Vauxhall Astra, driven by 28-year-old university graduate Alex Britton had on the A303 near Andover in Hampshire on August 25 2021. Immediately behind her at the time was Tina Ince. The 58-year-old had been driving a food delivery van and stopped to see if she could assist before Tom Watson, 30, stopped in his breakdown recovery truck to offer assistance.

All three were on the westbound carriageway of the main road when Kopaniarz smashed into the vehicles at 56mph, killing all three victims instantly.

Despite trying to destroy his phone, Hampshire Police managed to recover and rebuild it. This allowed investigators to work out that he had shared and watched a seven-minute-and-28-second video on Ladbible shortly before the crash, and had been typing his destination into the sat-nav on his phone when he crashed.

Kopaniarz only applied emergency braking at about 0.2 to 0.5 seconds or nine to 12 metres before impact despite having a clear view of the vehicles for 170m, with the court shown dash-cam footage from his cab as he drove towards the stationary vehicles.

Lorry driver Michal Kopaniarz was jailed for 12 years by a judge at Winchester Crown Court. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Detective Constable Cate Paling, the lead investigator of Hampshire Police's Roads Policing Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: "This was a catastrophic loss of life.

"Kopaniarz killed three people because he was using his mobile phone and not paying attention to the road.

"The devastating consequences of his selfish actions have torn three families apart. While the sentence passed will not heal their pain, we are pleased our investigation has provided answers and justice to the loved ones of Alex, Tina and Tom.

"More than anything I hope other drivers who think there is no harm in using their phone while driving will consider this case and learn from it. Nothing on your phone could ever be important enough to risk killing another person.

"I hope the dedication of our officers in this case proves how committed we are to catching dangerous drivers and holding them accountable for the lives they ruin."

Breakdown truck driver Tom Watson stopped to help when he was killed

Paying tribute to Tom, the Watson family said: "On the 25th August 2021, all our lives changed forever following the actions of Michal Kopaniarz.

"Losing Tom in the way we did was shocking and devastating for all our family. Words seem so useless when trying to explain the extent of our loss. We are a small family and Tom was a special part of it, his absence is felt very deeply.

"We are now left trying to adjust our lives without him by our sides, but we know we must try to carry on and support each other through this.

"We will respect the court's decision but no sentence will ever compensate us for Tom's life. We all now must try and move forward knowing that we have a lifetime ahead of us without Tom."

Alex Britton was killed after her car broke down on the A303 dual carriageway

The Britton family added: "Alex was a beautiful person, both inside and out. She was kind and thoughtful, sensitive but strong and had a wicked sense of humour. She would do anything for anyone and was amazingly caring. It is fair to say that everyone needs a friend like Alex in their lives.

"She was an amazing mummy to her two young daughters, aged just three years and 17 months when she was taken away from them. Alex was a big family person with a heart of gold and absolutely adored her girls. They were her life and she would do anything and everything for them.

"Alex's passing has left a massive hole in all of our hearts and we have all lost our much loved mummy, daughter, fiancée, sister, auntie and friend. A deep sense of loss is always with us and it is hard to imagine life without Alex.

"Our heartfelt sympathies go to the families of Tina and Tom who stopped to help Alex and who also lost their lives. No words will ever be enough.

"This is a serious message to all those who think driving and being on a mobile phone is okay. Whether in a car, van or HGV, the consequences can be catastrophic."

Tina Ince stopped to help Ms Britton before she was killed by Kopaniarz

Tina Ince's daughter Melissa said: "It has been an extremely long, and difficult, process to get to this stage.

"No court sentence will ever be enough to make up for the loss of my mum and the other loved ones who died that day. However, I am relieved that justice has been served and the person responsible for this tragedy has finally been held accountable for his actions."

Sentencing Kopaniarz to 12 years behind bars, Judge Angela Morris told him that watching a video for more than seven minutes while driving showed a "lamentable lack of regard for the rules of the road and the safety of other road users".

She also banned the defendant from driving for 16 years and ordered him to take an extended retest before he can drive again.

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