AN HGV driver has been told he should be prepared for a prison sentence after being convicted of causing the death of a grandfather by dangerous driving on the A66 near Appleby.

Rhys Gardiner, 24, had been on trial at Carlisle crown court following a tragic crash which claimed the life of 72-year-old Tim Harkness, of Carlisle.

Gardiner admitted causing Mr Harkness’s death by careless driving, but denied that his conduct behind the wheel was dangerous.

Dashcam footage from the cab of Gardiner’s Mercedes vehicle captured it crossing the central white line of the A66 briefly, close to Kirkby Thore in darkness just after 5-40am on April 3 2018.

It drifted left and partially off the carriageway for more than 100 metres at around 50mph without changing course before rejoining the A66. It then crossed on to the wrong side of the road and collided with an oncoming Renault lorry driven by Mr Harkness, who died.

Prosecutor Tim Evans had alleged Gardiner “fell asleep at the wheel” moments before the tragedy, and that he was “an accident waiting to happen” after having “very little sleep” earlier that night.

He had send a text to his girlfriend at 2-32am - an hour before he started his fateful journey - which read: “Tired lol.”

Westbound motorist Alan Tinkler saw Gardiner “unexplainably” drift on to the nearside grass verge before a crash which, he said, occurred “in the blink of an eye”.

He concluded Mr Harkness, who tried to take evasive action, “stood no chance”.

A police collision investigator concluded in court “the explanation that fits with all the evidence is that he has fallen asleep”.

Gardiner, however, denied that was the case and insisted from the court witness box he was awake the whole time.

“I felt I was in a fit state to drive” he recalled, adding: “I wasn’t asleep. I was trying to correct.”

But a jury which heard all evidence in the case convicted Gardiner, unanimously, of causing Mr Harkness’s death by dangerous driving after deliberating for less than an hour.

Recorder Eric Lamb adjourned the case for a pre-sentence report, imposed an interim driving ban and granted unconditional bail to Gardiner, of Old Hall Road, Bentley, near Doncaster, who wept in the court dock when the verdict was announced.

He is due to be sentenced on March 16.

“The court is giving you no indication of what the ultimate sentence will be,” Recorder Lamb told him, adding: “You must be prepared for a custodial sentence on the next occasion.”