Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Truck driver admits killing vet student in East Lothian

Michael Friel Image copyright Iain McLellan/Spindrift Photo Agency
Image caption Michael Friel drove along the A1 in East Lothian before smashing into Meghan Ambrozevich-Blair's car

A tipper truck driver has admitted killing a student in a head-on crash after driving along a dual carriageway in the wrong direction.

Other motorists swerved to avoid Michael Friel, 57, as he drove along the A1 in East Lothian before smashing into Meghan Ambrozevich-Blair's car.

The 26-year-old student suffered multiple injuries in the crash near Dunbar on 9 December 2016.

She died despite efforts to save her by an off-duty doctor.

At the High Court in Edinburgh Friel admitted causing her death by dangerous driving between the Spott and Thistly Cross roundabouts.

And in a statement released following the court case, her family said their world "fell apart" when Miss Ambrozevich-Blair died.

Image copyright Digby Brown
Image caption Meghan Ambrozevich-Blair was posthumously awarded a first class degree in veterinary nursing

Following the crash she was posthumously awarded a first class honours degree in veterinary nursing from Edinburgh Napier University.

The court was told that the accident happened after Friel performed a three-point turn on the A1.

He was driving a Ford Transit tipper van from his sister's home in Dunbar to work in Little Spott in East Lothian.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice told the court: "He joined the A1 southbound and had almost reached Torness nuclear power station before realising he was travelling in the wrong direction for his destination."

He stopped and called his brother, who he worked for, and was told to return north to the Spott roundabout and wait for him at a supermarket.

Friel missed the turn at the roundabout and continued north on the A1 before realising that he had made a mistake and pulled up and began making a three-point turn.

Animal lover

One motorist negotiated a way past him and saw in his rear view mirror the tipper was now being driven down the northbound carriageway in the wrong direction.

Mr Prentice said: "The accused drove in a southerly direction in the northbound carriageway. He encountered a number of vehicles travelling north at speed."

The drivers of five vehicles had to swerve to avoid colliding with Friel's vehicle, Mr Prentice added.

The prosecutor said: "Two drivers noticed the accused appeared to be oblivious to the danger presented and that he was staring straight ahead while driving."

Meanwhile animal-lover Miss Ambrozevich-Blair was travelling from her home in Dunbar to her part-time job at Vets for Pets at Straiton retail park at Loanhead.

Mr Prentice said Miss Ambrozevich-Blair was not travelling at excessive speed but overtook another driver who heard a loud bang after she took a bend and came upon the crash scene.

The court heard that Friel later asked a firefighter: "When did this become a one way?"

She told him that he was on the "motorway" and that it had always been one way. Friel replied: "It used to be two-way".

'Incredible daughter'

He passed a breath test and was treated for fractures in hospital.

Judge Lord Arthurson deferred sentence on Friel for background reports and told him the court was considering a "substantial custodial sentence".

After the hearing, Miss Ambrozevich-Blair's family described her as "beautiful... talented, caring and loving in every way".

"She loved life and had it all in front of her," they added.

"We lost an incredible daughter and sister, and her fiancé lost his soul mate and the family they planned to have.

"The suffering we have endured over the last two years since that day has been horrendous - we never thought it was possible to be in so much pain and still be alive.

"Days that were happy are now sad and our lives will never be the same again."

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