Lorry Driver Avoids Jail Over Bridge Crash

14 December 2017, 18:00 | Updated: 15 December 2017, 12:20

Alan Austen

A lorry driver from Darlington has been spared jail after crashing into a motorway bridge, causing £1.5 million damage and closing the road for days.

Alan Austen was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The heavy machinery he was transporting on the back of a lorry struck the M20 footbridge at around noon on August 27 last year.

The impact caused the bridge, between junctions four and three, to collapse on to the London-bound carriageway at Ryarsh in Kent.

No-one was killed but Jim Shaw, 73, of Thamesmead, south-east London, was left with three broken ribs after he came off his motorbike to avoid the fallen bridge.

The court heard that Austen had ignored warnings from colleagues that the load on the lorry was too high before he set off.

Dressed in a grey suit, with a blue shirt, tie and green waistcoat, the 64-year-old, of Jedburgh Drive, Darlington, spoke only to confirm his name and enter a plea.

He began to shake as Judge Philip Statman handed down the 12-month suspended sentence that included 200 hours of unpaid work which he must complete within a year.

Austen must also pay £500 in court costs and was banned from driving for three years.