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Death crash HGV driver used mobile apps moments before ploughing into minibus

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James Majury, 33, has admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury in a crash in Lancashire in January 2019.

M58 crash scene

An HGV driver who killed a schoolboy and a mother-of-two in a motorway collision “unleashed a 19.2-tonne battering ram” when he used his mobile phone at the wheel, a court has heard.

James Majury, 33, opened a number of apps during his journey including medieval fantasy game Hustle Castle and Sky Sports News, as well as sending text messages to his mother.

He accessed the Facebook app less than a minute before his Mercedes Arocs vehicle, laden with scaffolding, ploughed into the back of a nine-seater minibus carrying pupils and staff from Pontville School, a special educational needs facility in Ormskirk.

Joe Cairns, 14, from Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, and school support worker Anne Kerr, 50, from Southport, died from their injuries at the scene on the M58 at Bickerstaffe, Lancashire, on January 8 last year.

James Majury
James Majury used his mobile phone multiple times, including to access a gaming app, prior to the crash (Lancashire Constabulary/PA)

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said: “The Crown say the defendant had been more engaged with Facebook than the road ahead.

“He displayed a total disregard for the rules of the road and the apparent danger caused to other road users.

“He had effectively unleashed a 19.2-tonne battering ram on the M58 with devastating effect on the lives of his victims.”

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Five other people were seriously injured in the multi-vehicle collision close to junction three of the westbound carriageway, which lifted a Ford Transit van over an embankment.

Anne Kerr
Anne Kerr, 50, from Southport, died at the scene (Lancashire Constabulary/PA)

Before the crash at 8.42am, there were warning signs of a lane closure on the approaching exit slip road and there was an obvious build-up of queuing traffic, Preston Crown Court heard.

Father-of-one Majury remained at the scene following the crash and tried to help free the injured from the minibus, but also attempted to minimise his culpability, said Mr McEntee.

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The prosecutor said: “He attributed the collision to a momentary lapse of judgment and told one person ‘I took my eyes off the road for a second’.”

Majury maintained that account in a later prepared statement to police, but gave no comment after the findings of an examination of his mobile phone and the lorry’s tachograph were presented to him, the court was told.

During his journey from work about 30 minutes earlier, he first sent a text message to Radio 1 while travelling at 1mph and then opened the Sky Sports News app while stationary in traffic.

It could not be said how the app was used but it was reactivated 10 minutes later when Majury unlocked his phone with a six-digit pin while travelling at about 55mph on the M6, said Mr McEntee.

Joe Cairns
Joe Cairns, 14, who died at the scene, was travelling on the minibus hit by James Majury’s lorry (Lancashire Constabulary/PA)

Five minutes later he replied to a text message from his mother while still travelling at the same speed, and then launched the Hustle Castle strategy game app moments later.

He went on to engage in a six-minute hands-free phone conversation with his partner before Majury unlocked his phone again a minute before the crash and sent another message to his mother before opening the Facebook app.

Majury slammed on his brakes just half a second before hitting the minibus, the court heard.

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Kerr’s husband Simon said: “There are no winners for anybody involved in this. I hope that people will remember this and think about the devastation that has been caused before picking up their phone whilst driving.”

Joe’s mother Steph Cairns said Majury’s actions were “so selfish and utterly mindless”, while his father Andrew told the court: “It’s murder in my eyes.”

In February, Majury, of Milton Road, Coppull, Chorley, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and five counts of causing serious injury and was remanded in custody.

Sentencing will take place on Friday from 10.30am.

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