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Friday, 29 June, 2001, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Trucker 'dozed off' before crashing
Court graphic
Oxford Crown Court was told the lorry driver fell asleep
The family of a man killed by a trucker who fell asleep at the wheel are calling for new legislation to prevent another tragedy.

Paul Willis was killed when Peter Cuddihy lost control of his 17 tonne truck after driving for five hours.

Cuddihy was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving at Oxford Crown Court on Friday and was warned by the judge that he is likely to be jailed.

Mr Willis' family want drivers to be made to take 15-minute breaks every two hours.

Killed instantly

Mr Willis and his friend, 19-year-old Julia Ball, had been returning home to Bicester from Birmingham when they ran out of petrol on the M40.

This will now send a message to all drivers that they must take regular breaks when feeling tired

Sarah Willis

They were waiting for a vehicle recovery service to arrive when Cuddihy's HGV slammed into the back of their car at 55mph.

Mr Willis was killed instantly, but Ms Ball was rescued from the crushed and overturned vehicle.

After the verdict Mr Willis' younger sister, Sarah, read a family statement.

She said: "There has been a tragic loss of life caused by a professional driver continuing to drive whilst knowing he was too tired to do so safely.

"Droopy-eye syndrome"

"Let us hope this will now send a message to all drivers that they must take regular breaks when feeling tired."

Cuddihy, a trucker with 20 years experience, twice dozed off in the cab of his lorry minutes before the crash in the early hours of 19 November last year.

He told police at the scene that he had battled "droopy-eye syndrome" that morning.

Cuddihy had started driving shortly before 2000GMT on 18 November and made a delivery in Market Drayton, Shropshire at 2300GMT.

He then took a break and set out again at 0100GMT to return to Newbury, Berkshire.

The court heard how Cuddihy admitted feeling tired one mile before the crash, but had continued after opening his window for a breath of fresh air.

In interviews he told police the next thing he was aware of was seeing the car on the hard shoulder and attempting to avoid it.

Cuddihy was ordered to re-appear for sentencing at Oxford Crown Court next month.

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