Wrong person jailed over M1 smart motorway deaths claims widow

Wrong person jailed over M1 smart motorway deaths claims widow

The widow of a man who was killed when a lorry ploughed into his stationary car on a smart motorway has said the wrong person has been jailed.

Alexandru Murgeanu and Jason Mercer died when Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into their vehicles on a section of the M1 without a hard shoulder.

At Sheffield Crown Court earlier, Szuba, 40, was jailed for 10 months.

But Mr Mercer’s wife Claire said “the events….would not have taken place if there had been a hard shoulder”.

Szuba, of Adelaide Street, Hull, previously admitted two counts of causing death by driving without due care and attention on 7 June 2019.

Since her husband’s death, Mrs Mercer has mounted a campaign against smart motorways.

Speaking outside court, she said: “We don’t believe the correct person is taking responsibility for this massive detrimental effect on ours and so many other people’s lives.

“The events of [that day] would not have taken place if there had been a hard shoulder and Highways England was run with the correct priorities in mind.”

Referring to a review of smart motorways, she said: “An agenda genuinely concerned with avoiding future deaths is not served by a pretend review… that wouldn’t have saved any of 40-plus people killed by smart motorways, or by jailing the wrong person.

“My hope in this devastation is that no more lives are ruined needlessly.”

The court heard 44-year-old Mr Mercer, from Rotherham, and Mr Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, had stopped in the slow lane after having a “minor bump” on the northbound carriageway of the M1, between junctions 34 and 35.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said: “Had there been a hard shoulder, or had the victims driven on for another mile to the refuge, this catastrophe would never have occurred.”

But he told Szuba: “There must be no doubt, however, that the main cause of this fatal crash was your inattention to the road ahead of you.”

Jeremy Evans, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said the two men’s vehicles had been stationary for almost six minutes, during which time many other drivers had passed by safely.

“There is no reason why the defendant should not have appreciated the danger that lay ahead, as other drivers had done,” he added.

More news from across Yorkshire

A Highways England spokesperson said: “We are deeply saddened by the deaths of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu and extend our sympathies to both their families and friends.

“We appreciate that this continues to be an unimaginably difficult time for them and understand the strength of feeling around this case.

“Every road death is a needless loss of life and we must do all that we can to keep our roads safe.”

A review published in March found smart motorways were as safe as, or safer than, conventional motorways, Highways England said.

Leave a Reply