A1(M) Bowburn crash: Daughter of couple killed urges drivers to put their phones down

  • Katie Cole's report includes distressing footage from the start

A County Durham woman whose mother and stepfather were killed in a crash caused by a lorry driver on his mobile phone says the pain of knowing it was preventable is difficult to live with.

Elaine Sullivan, 57, and 59-year-old David Daglish, from Seaham, died in July 2021 when a lorry driver browsing dating websites on his mobile phone crashed into their car on the A1(M) at Bowburn.

David Daglish and Elaine Sullivan were killed in the crash on the A1(M) near Bowburn. Credit: Family handover

Paul Mullen, 51, from Washington, was also killed instantly and several other people were injured.

Mrs Sullivan's daughter Mari has spoken out for the first time about the crash as she tries to save future lives with a new campaign.

Recalling the moment she found out what had happened, she said: “Amani, my little girl had my phone in her bedroom and then she shouted mam, my aunty Julie has been trying to ring you. I had about 80 missed calls.

Paul Mullen was also killed instantly in the crash. Credit: Family handout

"I rang back and she kept saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' And then my cousin came on the phone and said 'I am sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry but your mum and dad have died in a car accident.' I had to hang up to try and process what she had just said.

Mari’s parents were killed instantly when lorry driver Ion Onut ploughed into their car. He had been looking at a dating website on his mobile phone.

Mrs Sullivan and Mr Daglish were only able to be identified by the microchip of their dog Keeva, who also died in the crash.

The aftermath of the crash on the A1(M) near Bowburn, in County Durham. Credit: Durham Constabulary

In January 2022 Onut pleaded guilty to three counts of causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for eight years and ten months.

Last year he apologised for causing the crash as part of an awareness film made by Durham Constabulary.

Footage from the crash and its aftermath is now used during training for HGV drivers and is shared with the approval of the families of the three people who died that day.

Mari said: “This could have been prevented. It wasn't a failure. It wasn't a car failure. It was somebody that actually made a stupid mistake that caused this accident.

"I was so angry, I was hurt. Nobody wants to get a phone call saying somebody has lost their life for something that could have been prevented."

To mark the second anniversary of her mother and step-father's deaths, she started an online fundraiser with the aim of creating stickers for vehicles, urging people to put their phones down.

Durham Police is supporting the initiative and the force's police and crime commissioner (PCC) has made a financial donation so hundreds of the stickers could be printed.

They are going to go on all of Durham Police's vehicles and are also being given out to members of the public.

One of the stickers made in memory of Elaine Sullivan and David Daglish. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Commissioner Joy Allen said: "It blows your mind really, that out of this tragedy something positive like this can happen. Life is precious, don't use your mobile phones, this is a plea. We don't want to see anything like this ever happen again."

Detective constable Natalie Horner, from Durham Police's Collision Investigation Unit, who worked with Mari to create the stickers, said: “We just want something to change.

"We want people to look at the stickers and see that it's real - see that there’s human people behind that.

David Daglish and Elaine Sullivan Credit: Family handout

"We had three people lose their lives that day all because of a mobile phone. Mari had this amazing idea to have something visual that people can see and they might look and put the phone down. We just need people to stop using their phones. It's costing people's lives.”

Mari is continuing to fundraise so more stickers can be printed. She said: “I’m continuously seeing people using the mobile phones and I just want it to end.”

To get stickers people can contact Natalie.Horner@durham.police.uk.

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