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UK motorist jailed for train crash

LONDON, England -- A motorist has been sentenced to five years in prison for causing the deaths of 10 people in a freak collision that derailed two trains in northern England.

The crash happened when 37-year-old Gary Hart's Land Rover careered off a motorway onto a railway track near Selby after he fell asleep at the wheel.

Hart called emergency services on his mobile phone to tell them his vehicle was blocking the tracks, but a passenger train hit it and deflected into the path of an oncoming goods train.

A jury found Hart guilty in December of causing death by dangerous driving after hearing that he had spent the whole of the previous night on the phone to a woman he met on the Internet.

After the verdict, Detective Superintendent Peter McKay of North Yorkshire police said: "Gary Hart was convicted on the clearest of evidence. He was a mobile catastrophe just waiting

to happen. He could have avoided those deaths. He did not. He alone is responsible."

A government report released in March exonerated the drivers of the two trains, who were both among the 10 people killed.

'Unusual' lifestyle

Hart had denied dangerous driving. He said he had not fallen asleep at the wheel but had lost control of the car, which was towing a trailer carrying another vehicle, after hearing a bang.

But investigators found no trace of any mechanical faults which could have caused him to veer off the motorway and hurtle down an embankment.

The crash was between a GNER express passenger train and a fully laden coal train near the village of Great Heck, North Yorkshire.

The London-bound express which was derailed and then crashed into the freight train.

The judge told the jury the two trains and the Land Rover "converged like the Titanic with the iceberg" to produce the crash.

Hart had admitted he had an "unusual" lifestyle.

He often skipped breakfast and lunch and could go without a break for 36 hours, staying up into the small hours playing computer games, the court heard.

Hart, 37, once a champion field archer, described himself as a "hunter-gatherer" who worked hard at his building business, travelling on average 40,000 miles a year in pursuit of work.

He told police in one interview: "My life is 1,000 miles per hour. It's just the way I live."

Eight days before the crash, Hart's life was to change after he "met" the new woman in his life, Kristeen Panter, 40, on the Internet. Within days the pair were phoning each other and exchanging text messages, and he said they were due to meet on the night following the crash.


• British rail crash motorist guilty
December 13, 2001
• Selby crash driver 'had not slept'
November 28, 2001
• Emergency teams swing into action
February 28, 2001



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