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Lorry Driver Jailed Over Cyclists' Deaths
5:42am 2nd September 2014
(Updated 5:42am 2nd September 2014)
A lorry driver from Bude who killed two cyclists after he fell asleep at the wheel has been jailed for eight and a half years.
Andrew McMenigall, 47, and Toby Wallace, 36, died almost instantly after they were hit on the A30 at Summercourt on July 2 last year.
The pair were 40 miles into a 960-mile charity bike ride between Land's End and John O'Groats when they were struck by Robert Palmer's white Renault lorry.
At an earlier hearing at Truro Crown Court, Palmer, from Grimscott, pleaded guilty to two charges of causing death by dangerous driving.
He also admitted another charge of dangerous driving in relation to a second crash weeks later on the A30 near Okehampton.
At the time of the crash Palmer - a night delivery driver for Frys Logistics Ltd in Launceston - had had little sleep because he had been working on vehicle maintenance for the firm during the day.
The court heard he had also been using his iPhone to send text messages while doing deliveries for discount store Lidl.
Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said: "You completely ignored their presence on the road. In the words of prosecutor Mr Lee you mowed them down.
"It is clear that at the time when this tragic accident occurred you were suffering from extreme fatigue and exhaustion.
"You should not have been driving at all at that time. You failed to ensure that you took sufficient rests. People should not drive when they are feeling very sleepy or, as you were, totally exhausted."
Palmer was also banned from driving for 10 years and ordered to take an extended driving test.
Mr McMenigall lived in Edinburgh with his wife Anne and their two children, Jennifer, 15, and 12-year-old Lucy.
Mr Wallace lived with his wife Claire in Philadelphia and had twice rowed for Cambridge in the Boat Race. Both men worked for Aberdeen Asset Management.
Palmer told police he had gone home and slept up until 6.30pm after finishing his shift the day before, but an investigation revealed this was a lie and he had only had a few hours' sleep.
Prosecutor Philip Lee said Palmer also altered his tachograph to cover up his lack of sleep.
The court heard Palmer was also involved in a second crash on September 20, where he drove into the back of another lorry.
The driver of that vehicle, Brian Rabey, was left with minor injuries after his lorry overturned.
William Sellick, defending, said Palmer was truly sorry for what he had done and had "blighted the lives of two families".
He said: "He is only too aware of the pain and suffering he has caused and that is something that will remain with him for always."
In a statement at the time the cyclists' families paid tribute to the emergency services and the people who donated money: "Members of the public were there when the accident happened and did everything they could to help. The emergency services were on the scene within minutes and did a valiant job.
"It must have been tremendously upsetting for the witnesses and the emergency services, and we want to thank them for everything they did.
"We have been touched by the generosity of people from around the world; people who had never met Andrew or Toby but have been making donations in their memory. Their kindness has been truly overwhelming."
Bryan Hancock, Civilian Investigator with the Serious Collisions Investigation Unit at Bodmin said: "Tuesday 2nd July 2013 was a tragic day for the Wallace and McMenigall families, the ultimate tragedy for Toby and Andrew, who lost their lives whilst on a planned charity ride from Lands End to John O'Groats.
"Two exceptional, very fit and athletic men were riding quite correctly on a straight section of dual carriageway, wearing high visibility clothing, easily seen by road users in good visibility.
"Tragically for Toby and Andrew, Robert Palmer was also travelling along that road that day, driving a six-axle articulated heavy goods vehicle, when for some unexplained reason he has, as one witness to the incident stated 'mown them down.'
"This was a totally avoidable, unnecessary and preventable incident, our enquiries revealed that Palmer was significantly fatigued, yet still drove vehicle, knowing that prior to the fateful journey on 2nd July 2013 he should not have driven back that day, yet actively chose to do so.
"On 21st September 2013, whilst on police bail following the fatal collision on 2nd July that year, Palmer was again driving a similar 6-axle heavy goods vehicle. On that occasion he was again involved in what is an almost identical collision to the first, fortunately for the innocent driver that day, a Bryan Rabey, he survived.
"All motor vehicles driven by a significantly fatigued driver are dangerous and can, as in this case, be lethal weapons. This the tragedy the Wallace and McMenigall families now have to live with, without Toby and Andrew."
Police and Department of Transport officers continue their investigations into this incident, which may lead to further prosecutions.
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