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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 13:09 GMT
Driver jailed for couple's death
Crash scene
The accident happened on the M20 in Kent
A lorry driver who killed an engaged couple in a motorway pile-up when he fell asleep at the wheel has been jailed for eight years.

Paul Couldridge, 44, was also been banned from driving for life.

Maidstone Crown Court heard Couldridge had already been told by doctors to stop driving because he suffers from the disorder obstructive sleep apnoea.

He fell asleep on the London-bound carriage of the M20 in Kent having nodded off at the wheel 15 times on other journeys.

On previous occasions, Couldridge's falling asleep had caused minor accidents.

Died instantly

On Friday, Couldridge, of Ingolsby Road, Gravesend, Kent, was found guilty of two counts of death by dangerous driving.

On the day of the crash, his lorry ploughed into a BMW being driven by Stephen Williams on the opposite carriageway.

Mr Williams 24, of Welling, London and his fiancé Sheila Ryan, 25, of Wallington, Surrey, were both killed on impact in the crash on 20 September 2000.

Earlier the court was told by eyewitness, Gavin Knight, from Maidstone in Kent, he saw Couldridge fighting to control the lorry as it "snaked" across the motorway.

'Crushed car'

"The cab was heading towards me and... I could see the driver fighting with the steering wheel and I tensed up and accelerated," Mr Gavin said.

"I came through it and looked in the mirror, and the cab appeared to be bouncing as if it had been over a big bump.

"A car was very badly crushed and I saw a body in the road."

Following his arrest, Couldridge told police he would rather have died than see the two people perish.

In a police interview read to the court, he said: "I wish I'd died myself instead of those that have."

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