A lorry driver jailed for killing three people by ploughing into traffic as he looked at his phone has told tearfully how he will regret what he did for the rest of his life.
Ion Onut helped to make a video from his prison cell warning of how using mobiles while driving can ruin lives in an instant.
“It shows you how quickly it happens, and how quickly your life changes from being normal to now being in prison, having a sentence of eight years,” he says in the hard-hitting film.
Onut was using the internet on his phone when he crashed into slow-moving traffic on the northbound carriageway of the A1(M) last July, killing three people and injuring several others.
Forensic examination of his phone found that Onut, of Galashiels, in Scotland, had been repeatedly on the web throughout his journey from Cambridgeshire right up until the collision, at Bowburn, County Durham, last July.
He had been trawling the internet for sexual partners, and his last interaction on his mobile was just seconds before he crashed, Durham Crown Court heard.
“I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” the 42-year-old said.
“I never had a chance to apologise, to say sorry for what I had done to those who lost their loved ones, the people who were injured, the ones who suffer from flashbacks.
“By being on my phone for a long period of time and then realising the traffic ahead of me had stopped, I had absolutely zero chance to act and pull my brakes on.”
Onut was driving at 58mph when his lorry hit another HGV and four cars ahead of him before crashing and bursting into flames.
David Daglish and Elaine Sullivan from Seaham, County Durham, and Paul Mullen from Washington, Tyne and Wear, died instantly.
After being rescued from his cab by other people, Onut was charged with three counts of causing death by dangerous driving, which he admitted.
On Tuesday he was jailed for eight years and 10 months and was disqualified from driving for more than 14 years.
“I have never been involved in anything with the police before, and then for using your mobile phone at the wheel you are here, away from the real world and friends and family,” he said.
“When I saw the videos of what happened it was unimaginable and hard to see. It was so disturbing knowing that was me in that lorry ploughing through the cars…
“Bad choice – really bad choice.
“It shows you how quickly it happens, and how quickly your life changes from being normal to now being in prison, having a sentence of eight years.”
DC Natalie Horner, of Durham Constabulary, said: “Ion’s actions from that day caused far-reaching and heart-breaking consequences for all of those involved – the families and friends of those who tragically lost their lives, the people who witnessed the collision, and the emergency services who attended the horrific scene that day.
“Ion himself also has to live with the horror of knowing that two families have been ripped apart and will never be the same again as a result of his actions.
“We hope this film highlights just how devastating using a mobile phone or other device at the wheel of a vehicle can be – in one split second, your life and other innocent people’s lives might never be the same again.”