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Viorel Sandulache jailed for nine years after being found guilty of causing Abi Harvey's death by dangerous driving

By Paul Hooper

A lorry driver has been found guilty of death by dangerous driving after a 21-year-old died on the Dartford Crossing.

The jury spent an hour-and-a-half to find Viorel Sandulache guilty of the charge at Maidstone Crown Court today.

He was jailed for nine years for the offence and was banned from driving for 10-and-a-half years

The crash happened in the early hours of November 3, 2017.

College student Abi Harvey suffered fatal injuries when her Audi A1 was hit by the Iveco Stralus truck.

She was airlifted to hospital in London but died three days later.

Prosecutor Nina Ellin has claimed the truck driver was watching a Romanian comedy TV show in the moments before the crash took place.

But, giving evidence last week Sandulache told the jury he was only listening to the show.

When asked why he had looked away from in front for one and a half seconds, he was asked if this was to look at the television programme.

Abi Harvey
Abi Harvey

Sandulache, who had the help of an interpreter, told the court: "No, it was so I would regulate my speed so I would not go over 50mph."

When he looked up, he was asked what he could see.

He replied: "There was a car just in front of me. I had a feeling it came from nowhere. I started breaking a short time after but I just hit her."

Sandulache, of Bradley Way, Grays said Abigail's car had stopped in the road when the collision happened.

He said he felt "overwhelmed" when he realised she had died in the collision. Sandulache, was driving for Dartford-based UK Mail when the crash happened.

Ms Ellin told the jury that two Google searches were made on the phone of the defendant for a first and second series of the Romanian TV show which is called Baieti-de-oras.

"Do you accept a lack of sleep affected your judgement on this night shift?" Nina Ellin

She said: "What did you do that was careless?"

He replied: "I watched the speed for one and a half seconds."

She said: "Is there anything that you would have done differently?"

He replied: "I could have been more attentive to the road ahead."

Sandulache said Abigail's vehicle had come to a stop in front of him when the crash happened.

Miss Ellin said when questioned by police officers at the scene of the crash the defendant said he had been listening to music.

Viorel Sandulache has been jailed for nine years. Picture: Kent Police
Viorel Sandulache has been jailed for nine years. Picture: Kent Police

When talking about the comedy, she said: "It's not a musical programme is it."

He replied: "It has music in it."

She added: "It's a comedy. With people speaking and people looking funny. What you did not say (to officers) was you were listening to a TV programme."

Sandulache said his phone was "faced down" when the comedy was being played.

He was asked why he did not change lanes in the moments before the crash on the bridge when there was no traffic in the next lanes.

Sandulache said he needed to get off at the next junction and would not have had enough time to overtake the Audi.

"I could have been more attentive to the road ahead..." Viorel Sandulache

He was asked why he did not consider beeping his horn when he saw the Audi started to slow down.

He replied: "It was too late."

"Do you accept a lack of sleep affected your judgement on this night shift?"

Miss Ellin said: "It was too late because you were watching the TV programme."

He once again maintained he was not watching it and was asked why he was only listening to it.

He replied: "Because it was enough to listen to it."

Abigail Harvey died at the Dartford Crossing (8209927)
Abigail Harvey died at the Dartford Crossing (8209927)

The court heard that in the days before the crash Sandulache had been recorded on a dashcam device inside the cab of his lorry on his mobile phone while driving.

Miss Ellin said: "Do you think there's anything dangerous in doing that?"

He replied: "Yes."

The court had previously heard he also had a second job as a cherry picker driver for a separate company.

Miss Ellin said Sandulache had broken the regulations on how much rest he should have before driving.

She said: "Do you accept a lack of sleep affected your judgement on this night shift?"

He replied: "No."

A clip of the comedy show which had been playing on his phone inside the cab in the moments before the crash was played to the jury.

Maidstone Crown Court (7931056)
Maidstone Crown Court (7931056)

He said he accepted that the television was playing on his phone and that the phone was facing down.

Miss Ellin said Sandulache could be heard laughing at the show.

She said: "What are you laughing at?"

"The reason you crashed into the back (of the Audi) is because you were simply not concentrating on the road ahead..." Nina Ellen

He said: "I was listening to the comedy."

She said: "All you can hear from the audio is the music."

Sandulache said he could remember what it was about because he had seen it before.

Miss Ellin said: "What's happening is one of the people is making a pen disappear.

"The other person is trying to do it and not managing it. What you are laughing at is what you can see."

He said: "I was remembering what is happening."

Miss Ellin said: "The comedy is all about what you can see. The reason you crashed into the back (of the Audi) is because you were simply not concentrating on the road ahead.

"And you were distracted."

Sandulache added again that he was watching the speed.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Dartford

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