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  1. ITV Report

Man killed after driver mistook layby for slip road after working 'double shift'

A traffic safety company foreman killed his friend and work colleague by smashing into the back of a parked lorry while sleep deprived after doing a 19 hour double shift.

Stephen Robinson was minutes from home in the West End of Newcastle on his way back from working through the night on roadworks when tragedy struck for front seat passenger Alex Dixon.

A court heard, in his fatigued state, it's likely Robinson mistook a layby on the A69 near Throckley and Lemington for a slip road and failed to see a parked HGV, which he smashed into the back of.

Mr Dixon, 34, suffered devastating injuries and died at the scene, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Dad-of-three Robinson, 33, of The Grove, West Denton, who was due to be Mr Dixon's best man, was jailed for causing death by careless driving.

The victim's fiance spoke of her devastation and told how she ended up planning his funeral when they should have been planning their wedding.

The scene of the crash on the A69 in March Credit: NCJMEDIA SYNDICATION

“He was the most loving person, the kind of person to always put a smile on your face and who would do anything for anyone.

“We were due to be married last week but instead, one week later, I am sat in court listening to the moment my whole world came crashing down.

"I spent time planning his funeral when I should have been planning our wedding.

“I was his world, and he was mine. We have been robbed of a future together and starting a family, which we planned to do after our wedding.

"I have been left with a life sentence of grief – without the one person I could always turn to and always rely on.

“I don’t recognise the person I am today because this is not me – this is not living, it is existing. The impact that Alex’s death has had on our family can never be explained in just a few words.

“No sentence today could bring Alex back or ease the pain and suffering that we feel. We have lost the most wonderful, kind and generous person.”

– Gemma Ritzema

Alex’s parents, Tommy and Yvonne, of Long Newton, Stockton-on-Tees, spoke of the “unfillable void” left as a result of his death.

Dad-of-three Robinson, 33, of The Grove, West Denton, who was due to be Mr Dixon's best man, was jailed for causing death by careless driving. Credit: NCJMEDIA SYNDICATION

“Alex was the best son you could have ever wished for."

“He was an honest and kind person who had everything to live for. He had his whole future ahead of him, and we are all absolutely devastated by what happened.

“The last 17 months have incredibly difficult for everyone, and not a day goes by when we don’t think of Alex and the unfillable void he has left in our lives.

“No outcome today would have changed what happened and brought Alex back, and he will forever be in our hearts.”

– Alex’s parents, Tommy and Yvonne

The court heard Robinson and Mr Dixon were working for Premier Traffic Management and had been part of a safety convoy escort on roadworks on the A69 at Gilsland, west of Hexham, and were heading back to their homes in Newcastle around 5.15am on March 22.

It was as they got close to home on the A69 in Newcastle that tragedy struck.

The court heard the HGV did not have any parking lights on and its driver was asleep in his bunk but Robinson still should have seen it. The HGV driver suffered minor injuries as a result of the collision.

The police investigation showed Robinson had worked 47 hours in the three days leading up to the crash and had done a double 19 hour shift, with just a 90 minute break.

Alex Dixon was described as the 'best son you could wish for' Credit: NCJMEDIA SYNDICATION

Stephen Robinson admitted causing death by careless driving.

Prosecutor Michael Bunch said: "A degree of fatigue is considered to have contributed to the collision."

He added: "To have made a mistake on the route he was familiar with implies an issue with the defendant at the time.

"The accident report says it's likely fatigue contributed to the collision."

When he was interviewed by police, Robinson said as he mistook green cats eyes next to a layby for the slip road and he apologised for causing the death of his friend.

Judge Tim Gittins jailed Robinson for nine months and banned him from driving for 12 months after his release.

The judge said it was clear Mr Dixon was a "good man" who was on the "cusp of a bright future", having got engaged and recently started a new job.

Robinson was due to be Mr Dixon's best man and Mr Dixon was Robinson's youngest child's godfather.

Judge Gittins told him: "You were, I'm satisfied, in no fit condition to be driving that vehicle, albeit you had managed to do so for some distance, due to your sleep deprived state. There can be no other explanation for it.

"You suggest you mistook the layby cats eyes for the slip road. It's either that or you simply fell asleep at the wheel.

"The likelihood is you mistook the layby. That was a poor enough error of judgement but coupled with that, you failed to see the large HGV and trailer and those were catastrophic errors.

"No-one suggests you intended to cause it or intended any harm to befall your close friend but it was an accident waiting to happen because of the condition you allowed yourself to drive in and you and others like you need to have more respect for how demanding driving is.

"It's a heavy irony you spent your employment in traffic safety management keeping many road users safe but when it mattered most, you didn't realise the serious risk you had taken because of your sleep deprived state."

John Boumphrey, defending, said Robinson was a man of exemplary character who had numerous positive references, had continued working for the firm since and who had suffered a pelvic fracture in the crash.

He added: "The primary mitigation is the defendant's remorse.

"It's clear this is someone who has lost a close friend and has been heavily affected by that.