An exhausted trucker who ploughed his lorry into a ‘one of a kind’ grandded, killing him instantly, joked with his girlfriend that he was tired before setting off.
Footage from Rhys Gardiner’s HGV showed it drift to the left on the A66 at Kirkby Thore, Cumbria, before hitting a bump and swerving across the road into the direct path of Timothy Harkness.
A witness to the 5.42am crash on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, said the 72 year old ‘stood no chance’ despite both men taking evasive action.
Gardiner, 24, denied causing death by dangerous driving but was convicted, unanimously, after a trial at Carlisle Crown Court. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Prosecutor Tim Evans told jurors Gardiner was ‘an accident waiting to happen’ after having ‘very little sleep’ earlier that night and during the previous Easter weekend.
He’d send a text to his girlfriend at 2.32am – an hour before he started his fateful journey – which read: ‘Tired lol.’
Gardiner, of Old Hall Road in Bentley, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was sentenced on Monday.
Mr Evans said: ‘It was quite simply the defendant falling asleep.
‘There were no tachograph rest break breaches, but Gardiner was too tired before he started work.
In a statement, Mr Harkness’s widow, Jane Barton called him ‘irreplaceable’ and ‘one-of-a-kind’ who ‘made everyone laugh’.
‘I don’t know how to start to explain what losing Tim has done to me and our family,’ she said.
‘It has now been almost two years since I lost Timbo. He was my best friend.
‘I still send him text messages, especially if I have had a bad day, I know I am not going to get a reply but I still feel that I need to talk to him.’
Gardiner, described as an inexperienced HGV driver, denied falling asleep at the wheel but was remorseful for what happened.
Jailing Gardiner, Recorder Eric Lamb said: ‘No sentence which is imposed by this court can ever right the wrong of the loss of Timothy Harkness’s life – somebody so much loved by those whose lives he touched.’
Gardiner must also serve a three-year driving ban when he is released from custody, and pass an extended re-test.