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Lorry driver jailed after crashing with stationary cars on M20 in Ashford

The trucker who fled the country after his articulated lorry ploughed into stationary motorway traffic in Ashford has been jailed.

Jeremy Didisse, 44, was on a hands-free kit when his truck smashed into four cars, breaking two of the drivers’ backs.

Jeremy Didisse
Jeremy Didisse

Both victims told a court of their pain and suffering after breaking their backs when the 55mph crash happened on the M20 in 2018.

The French national had been using his phone for about two-and-a-hours when he rammed into a stationary Mini Cooper queuing coast-bound on lane one off the Junction 10 slip road in February.

Recorder Ali Bajwa QC sentenced the grandfather-of-one to two years in prison, after hearing his victims suffered life-changing injuries.

Andrew Bass’s Mini Cooper was rear-ended and flung into Chantelle Smith’s Seat Ibiza - both cars were entirely destroyed and another two severely damaged.

In critical but stable conditions, Ms Smith was flown to King’s College Hospital in London as Mr Bass was rushed to Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital, prosecutor Gary Willmott explained.

“My reality in the days following the incident were centred on laying on my back in a hospital bed on my back unable to move looking at the ceiling tiles..."

Both victims suffered broken backs and told Canterbury Crown Court they have been left in life-long pain.

Mr Bass said: “I have no recollection of the impact - I had no knowledge until I woke up.I had just joined a stationary queue on the motorway, the next moment I was in a car that was destroyed.

“I had severe pain in my back but it seemed to be in one piece. I still cannot believe I survived, it is very distressing to look at.

“That journey to hospital for my wife must have been horrific, not knowing if she would find me dead or alive, all because of the stupidity of one person.

“My reality in the days following the incident were centred on laying on my back in a hospital bed on my back unable to move looking at the ceiling tiles.

The air ambulance taking off from the scene. Picture: Andy Clarke
The air ambulance taking off from the scene. Picture: Andy Clarke

Miss Smith suffered a fractured right shoulder, two broken vertebrae, a punctured right lung and broken ribs.

Her family were unable to visit because of adverse weather conditions.

“I was air-lifted to King’s College Hospital where I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. I felt very lonely and isolated.

“Due to the extent of my injuries we thought it best that my one year old did not visit, which was very hard for me.”

The court heard the trucker-of-20-years returned to France after being charged on two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving in February.

He was brought before a French court and returned to the UK in December last year where he entered guilty pleas.

Emergency services at the scene. Picture: Andy Clark
Emergency services at the scene. Picture: Andy Clark

Mr Willmott said: “The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving in December at North Kent Magistrates’ Court.”

Though Phil Rowley, Mitigating, explained hands-free gear is legal the judge illustrated the devices still impair driving ability.

Mr Rowley added: “He is a decent hard-working man who provides forhis family.

“He believes he may have blacked out for a moment, he has no recollection of what happened.

“The court may feel engaging in the legal activity with the hands free blue-tooth, he may have become distracted and missed the hazard in the road,” he said.

Sentencing the father-of-two, who remained passive in the dock, Mr Bajwa QC said: “There is evidence that using a mobile phone while driving amounts to bio-mechanical, auditory and cognitive distraction.

Emergency services at the scene of the crash. Picture: Andy Clark
Emergency services at the scene of the crash. Picture: Andy Clark

“Around 8am on the M20 motorway at a time when you were engaged in another such phone call in lane one your vehicle collided with four stationary vehicles that were queuing to exit the slip road.

“An eye-witness did not see your vehicle break or take any other form of evasiveaction.”

Didisse, of Marquise in France faces two years imprisonment and a year-long driving ban after admitting two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

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