York & North Yorkshire

Sleep-deprived A1(M) death crash driver jailed

Joao-Paulo Agusto Garcia [right]
Image caption The court was told that Garcia had driven about 1,500 miles with virtually no sleep before the crash

A sleep-deprived Portuguese van driver who crashed into a car in North Yorkshire, killing a soldier, has been jailed for two years and eight months.

Joao-Paulo Agusto Garcia, 32, had not taken enough breaks before the accident on the A1(M) near Boroughbridge last August, York Crown Court heard.

His van ploughed into a car driven by Afghanistan veteran Air Trooper James Ashdown, 23, based at RAF Dishforth.

Garcia, who admitted causing death by dangerous driving, escaped injury.

Air Trooper Ashdown had been married for only three months when he was killed.

His seven-month-old daughter Leilah and his wife, Siobhan, who was two months pregnant with their second child, were travelling in the car but escaped uninjured.

Image caption Air Trooper Ashdown's daughter survived the crash which killed her father

His brother-in-law was also in the car and was seriously injured in the crash.

The family was travelling to Manchester when Mrs Ashdown was taken ill and they stopped on the hard shoulder.

The Recorder of York, Stephen Ashurst, told Garcia: "You caused an almost unbearable tragedy for Mrs Ashdown and she has been left with only memories of a decent husband who was killed in the prime of life and whose death was unnecessary and completely avoidable."

The court heard that Garcia had driven almost 1,500 miles across Europe in less than two days with virtually no sleep.

He was delivering car radios to a factory in Tyne-and-Wear and was making his way back to Portugal when the accident happened.

Witnesses described him being tired and irritable as he screeched away from the factory in his van after delivering his load.

He was seen veering across the road at 70mph as he struggled to stay awake.

His barrister, Alex Offer, said his client was full of remorse but had been under pressure to get back to Portugal and continue his deliveries.

The victim's parents, Christine and Vincent Ashdown, said in a statement: "James was a much-loved family member who was taken from us too soon.

"He is missed by us all but will never leave us as long as we remember him."

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