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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 18:00 GMT
Selby accused saw passengers' faces
Gary Hart
Gary Hart (left) is charged with causing 10 deaths
The man accused of causing the deaths of 10 people in the Selby rail crash saw the faces of the passengers as the train crashed into his Land Rover, a court has been told.

Gary Hart described the moment he lost control of his Land Rover on the M62 - and how it came to rest across the East Coast mainline - in evidence read to the jury at Leeds Crown Court.

Mr Hart had said that he was just 20ft away from the vehicle when the express train ploughed into the Land Rover and moments later it collided with a fully-laden coal train.

Earlier sleep expert Professor James Horne, from Loughborough University, had told the court he thought Mr Hart had insufficient sleep before starting his journey and would have had difficulty keeping alert.

Driving on 'auto-pilot'

In an interview with liability adjuster Jeffrey Stagg after the crash, Mr Hart had explained that he had only got one hour's sleep the night before the accident because he had spent the evening playing computer games.

The jury was told he had said: "I had one hand on the bottom of the wheel and was driving on auto-pilot.

"I heard a bang from somewhere at the back of the Land Rover.

"I put both hands on the wheel. Instantly the Land Rover went across to the side of the road.

"As soon as I hit the verge, I bumped along and then I listed 45 degrees.

Land Rover wreckage
The express train collided with Mr Hart's Land Rover
"I saw the trees, I was braced tight, trying to keep it in a line. I thought I was going to go to the bottom of the embankment.

"I levelled off then I thought I was in a field. Then it went black and quiet.

"I went straight down. There was dust everywhere then it settled."

Reading from his interview notes, Mr Stagg said that Mr Hart then described how he got out of his Land Rover on the passenger side and dialled 999 immediately.

Standing nearby

"I was 20 feet away when it hit the Land Rover," he said.

"I was standing to the back of the trailer.

"I saw the people on the train - I saw their faces. I phoned the police again and told them the train had crashed through the Land Rover."

Mr Stagg said Mr Hart told him he had spent the previous evening playing computer games and that he only slept for one hour.

Emergency services survey the wreckage
The GNER express train hit a coal train
He said that Mr Hart became upset and needed comforting at certain times during the interview when he recounted the events leading up to the disaster.

Mr James Goss QC, prosecuting told the court on Wednesday that Mr Hart had spent five hours chatting to Kristeen Panter, the night before the crash.

Ms Panter had replied to his personal advertisement placed on an internet dating agency.

Sleep expert Professor James Horne, from Loughborough University, giving evidence on Friday, said he thought Mr Hart had had insufficient sleep before starting his journey.

Professor Horne, professor of psychophysiology and director of the Sleep Research Centre at the university, said he did not think Mr Hart could have remained alert while driving because of lack of sleep.

"He had a nap the previous afternoon which I really don't think had much effect," Professor Horne said.

'Insufficient sleep'

"I find it very difficult to see how he could have maintained alert driving for any period of time.

"Maybe that afternoon nap helped, there is no doubt about it. It was insufficient."

Mr Hart, 37, of Strubby, Lincolnshire, denies 10 counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"Professor Horne retraced the last ten miles of Gary Hart's journey"
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