A LORRY driver whose "momentary" carelessness caused a fatal head-on collision on the A66 in Cumbria could offer no explanation for why he lost control of his vehicle.

The tragedy happened on A66 a mile east of Kirkby Thore in December 2021 and claimed the life of 60-year-old Paul Stenner, an experienced professional driver who was taking his DAF HGV back to Humberside.

He was confirmed dead at the scene.

Nathan Michael Walker, 26, was the driver of the Man HGV that collided with Mr Stenner’s lorry that day. He later admitted causing Mr Stenner’s death by careless driving, though the reasons for him losing control of his lorry remain a mystery.

Walker was sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court after prosecutor Gerard Rogerson outlined the known facts.

He described how Walker was driving his Man HGV west along the A66 when he failed to negotiate a left-hand bend in the road, colliding head on with Mr Stenner’s oncoming lorry, killing him instantly.

Another lorry driver who was following Mr Stenner’s vehicle east on the A66 later reported seeing the lights of Walker’s oncoming vehicle.

The prosecutor said: “He described Mr Walker vehicle ‘jerking to the right,'  before swerving into the path of Mr Stenner’s vehicle and causing the two lorries to collide." Walker’s lorry span out of control and collided with a roadisde wall.

Witnesses said Walker, who was trapped in his lorry and bleeding from a facial injury, kept asking whether he had hit any other vehicle.

The accident happened at 5.17am, in weather conditions that were described as “almost perfect.” A friend of Walker's who spoke to the defendant 26 minutes before the collision described him as “bright eyed an wide awake” during night shifts.

Walker had seemed his normal self and there was nothing he had said that gave the man caused for concern.

A police officer who attended the scene also referred to Walker repeatedly asking whether his lorry had hit any other vehicle. Asked if he recalled what happened, he replied: “I’m not sure what happened, if I fell asleep or hit someone.”

Experts who examined both lorries said there were no mechanical defects with either.

Records also showed Walker took the required break before resuming his journey and he insisted he was adequately rested. The court heard a summary of the police collision investigation report.

It recorded how Walker’s lorry had continued along a reasonably straight path at the slight bend, crossing double solid white lines and driving into the path of Mr Stenner’s vehicle. The report concluded: “There may be several reasons for the collision, including fatigue, distraction or a medical episode.”

Drink or drugs were not a factor and Walker had suffered no prior blackouts or seizures, or dizziness that affected his driving.

The report said: “The collision may have been caused by one or a combination of fatigue leading to a micro sleep; a medical episode or distraction which meant he was not alert and concentrating on his driving and surroundings in the moments leading up to and at the time of the collision.

In a prepared statement, Walker first expressed his “sincere and genuine condolences to the family and friends of Paul Stenner.”

He said: “I understand the grief and the pain of their loss at Paul’s passing and that they are seeking an understanding as to why this collision took place. Unfortunately, I cannot provide them with an explanation.”

He said he had no memory of the moments just before the collision. Before the crash, he was in excellent health and was feeling “absolutely fine,” having had adequate sleep.

“I must have lost control of my vehicle but I cannot explain this but I am sure it was not caused by fatigue. I am a professional HGV driver and I take great pride in my driving.” Nor was he under time pressure.

Since the tragedy, he had decided to not return to HGV driving; he had voluntarily surrendered his driving licence to the police.

He added: “My thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends; I am so sorry for the distress and suffering that they have experienced.”

The court also heard a victim impact statement from Mr Stenner’s widow Ingrid.

She wrote: “It is now two years and six months, and it is not easy not having him around. It still feels raw.”

She had moved house as living in the home they had shared was not the same. “I have still have the Christmas card Paul never opened, and his presents are still gift-wrapped,” she said.

“He was the real victim in this. He was a father, a stepfather, a granddad, my husband. He loved fishing and whenever we could we had lovely fishing holidays…There are so many little things.

“He was my happiness, my soulmate, my best friend who I love so much, even though he is no longer with me. How much I miss him I could never put into words. There are no words.”

John Dye, for Walker, a man of hitherto good character, said the defendant had from the very beginning of the process been concerned for Mr Stenner and his family.

Positive references and the defendant’s supporters in the packed public gallery showed reflected Walker’s character as a “hard working, decent young man.”

There was evidence of genuine remorse, said Mr Dye.

Judge Michael Fanning told Walker, of Hall Close, Hemsworth, Pontefract, that it was clear that he was a good man, who was an asset to his community.

The judge described the offence as the “sort of momentary inadvertence” that could happen to anyone.”

“Most of the time, people get away with it,” said the judge. “Most of the time there is not a collision which results in the death of a fellow professional.”

There had been nothing extreme in Walker’s manner of driving. The judge said: “It was careless; we just don’t know why. It was a momentary lapse of concentration. Your carelessness killed a man of 60 years of age who had been driving for 30 years.”

Judge Fanning said Walker did not need rehabilitating and that there was nothing about his character that was flawed, describing the offence as a “one-off.”

He imposed a five-month jail term, suspended for a year. Walker was banned from driving for a year and told he must perform 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.

As he concluded the case, Judge Fanning said he could not imagine the pain that was being endured by Mr Stenner’s widow.