A young woman was severely injured and four valuable show dogs, including a Crufts winner, were killed when an articulated lorry ploughed into a motor home on the hard shoulder of the M40.
The £96,000 motor home virtually disintegrated, throwing debris and the dogs’ cages across the motorway north of junction 11 near Banbury.
At Warwick Crown Court, driver Russell Walsh pleaded guilty to causing serious injury to 20-year-old Anastasia Egorova by dangerous driving.
Walsh, 38, of Cambridge Street, Stockport, Cheshire, was jailed for eight months and banned from driving for two-and-a-half years. He will then have to take an extended test to get his licence back.
Anastasia worked for dog breeders Caroline Russell-Smith and Lisa Croft-Elliott, who had a specially-equipped mobile home.
At 5.40am on November 23, 2013, as they were travelling between shows with 11 dogs, the motor home broke down on the M40 northbound between junctions 11 and 12.
They parked on the hard shoulder, put on the hazard lights and called the RAC before waiting in the vehicle.
Some time later another driver was following Walsh’s artic and became concerned and dropped back when he suddenly swerved onto the hard shoulder and back into the nearside lane.
He swerved another couple of times and the driver behind could clearly see the broken down mobile home with its hazard lights on as Walsh swerved onto the hard shoulder again. Without slowing or braking at all, Walsh ploughed into the mobile home and debris from the vehicle, as well as the dog cages, was thrown across the motorway.
Anastasia, who had been in the back with the dogs, was thrown into the front, suffering multiple injuries which included three fractured vertebrae, a head injury and six broken ribs, while the other two women suffered less serious injuries.
Four dogs died, while others suffered spinal and other injuries.
Among those who died were Rage, who had won best toy poodle at Crufts in 2012, and Eva, a Chinese crested powderpuff who had won five breed records. Sweetie, a Cardigan Corgi, was hit by a car as she ran off after her cage was smashed open; while Suka, another Cardigan Corgi, was rescued after running to the central reservation but had to be put down.
Ms Russell-Smith, who suffered compressed vertebrae, said: “The dogs were like our children. Losing them has had a devastating effect on all of us.”
Walsh said he did not see the motor home, but complained that it had been parked too close to the edge of the hard shoulder.
Milena Bennett, defending, said: “He accepts the loss of concentration is what caused the accident and caused the injuries. He is a dog-lover. He has a dog himself, and every time he looks at his dog, he is reminded of those dogs which have lost their lives unnecessarily.”
Jailing Walsh, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones told him: “I accept you had normally been a careful and well-qualified driver of an articulated lorry, and that you have pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.
“But it was a very dangerous piece of driving which went on for more than a moment. You are fortunate you didn’t kill the young woman or injured more severely or kill the other two occupants. ”