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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 18:31 GMT
Selby disaster was 'sleep related'
Selby train crash
Examiners investigated the Land Rover's condition
A police officer told a jury that events leading up to the Selby rail crash bore the hallmarks of a "sleep-related" incident.

Accident investigator PC Steven Shone said he had never known a driver fail to correct a deviation from the motorway - unless they had been falling asleep.

PC Shone inspected the M62 in the aftermath of the disaster - which is alleged to have been caused by builder Gary Hart dropping off behind the wheel.

The jury in the trial also heard a recording of Mr Hart tell police how he was 20 seconds away from death.

His Land Rover and trailer careered down a motorway embankment and was hit by an express train which then collided with another locomotive, claiming the lives of 10 people.

Gary Hart
Gary Hart: Accused of falling asleep at the wheel
PC Shone told Leeds Crown Court: "It's my experience that a driver will try anything he can to stay on the carriageway whether it be braking or steering back onto the carriageway itself."

He said he found no evidence on the motorway of skidding, hard braking or any debris.

PC Shone said that if he assumed Mr Hart to be correct and the vehicle was driving at 50mph to 55mph at the time, he worked out it would have taken between 2.4 and 2.7 seconds for it to cross the hard shoulder from lane one to the verge.

Earlier police vehicle examiner Ian Charlton said his investigations showed there were no significant mechanical defects on Mr Hart's Land Rover and trailer.

He said nothing was found which could explain why the Land Rover left the M62 at Great Heck near Selby before it ploughed down an embankment and came to rest on the East Coast Main Line.

All-night chat

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

The prosecution allege that Mr Hart's Land Rover left the M62 after he fell asleep at the wheel.

It left the motorway and was then hit by a GNER express train heading for London at 117mph.

About 500 yards further down the line, the derailed passenger express then crashed into an oncoming goods train pulling 16 wagons filled with 1,600 tons of coal.

The court heard Mr Hart had been up the night before chatting to Kristeen Panter, a woman he had met through an internet dating agency.

Had I spent another 20 seconds looking for my phone I would not have been here now

Gary Hart
Mr Hart had told police after the accident, which occurred in February, he had heard a bang coming from the vehicle just before he left the carriageway.

A 42-minute recording of his interview with police was also played.

He also described to Detective Constable Andrew Lehman how quickly disaster struck.

'Hell broke loose'

Mr Hart said: "From leaving the carriageway to getting out of the Land Rover to the train hitting the Land Rover it can't have been more than 40 seconds.

"Had I spent another 20 seconds looking for my phone I would not have been here now.

"It was snowing like mad. Cruising along there was a bang and then it seemed all hell broke loose."

He said he then heard the train coming: "It sounded its alarm and then, bang. It was that quick."

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday and the judge, Mr Justice Mackay, told the jury to prepare for a trip to the crash scene.

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