Lorry driver was surfing dating sites seconds before crash killed three people

A lorry driver was surfing "adult dating websites" on his mobile phone just seconds before causing a horror crash that killed three people.

Ion Nicu Onut was driving a 3.5 tonne Scania LGV, carrying fertilizer, when he "ploughed" into queuing traffic on the A1(M), near junction 61 at Bowburn, County Durham.

The crash, on July 15 last year, created a "fireball" and tragically killed three motorists, Chronicle Live reports.

Onut, who reportedly was "trawling the internet on dating sites looking for casual sexual partners" at the time of the smash," was swiftly arrested and charged with three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

Paul Mullen, 51, from Washington, and Seaham couple Elaine Sullivan, 59, and David Daglish, 57, were tragically killed in the crash.

The 41-year-old appeared at Durham Crown Court to be sentenced on Tuesday.

He had previously pleaded guilty to the charges.

The Romanian national was working as a HGV driver for CJ Hughes and Sons at the time of the crash, the court heard.

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He was, however, living in the Scottish Borders with his family, and on July 15 he began the day working down south.

He took regular stops as he made his way back up north and headed to the A19 before driving on to the A1(M).

Prosecutor, Nick Dry, said there had been a spillage of hydraulic fluid on the A1 at the time, and the hard shoulder had been closed off and warning signs were in use.

There was a 20-minute traffic delay and a 50mph speed limit was implemented.

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As a result, the traffic had been reduced to “a crawl”, with the victims of the crash being part of the queuing traffic.

A motorist behind Onut's lorry reportedly became "concerned" at how the LGV was being driven.

The vehicle was "veering off" and "swerving" into the outside lane, the court heard.

Onut's "erratic" driving led the motorist behind him to believe he may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

But the 41-year-old continued driving and failed to slow down before he "ploughed" into the back of queuing traffic which "burst into flames".

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Richard Bloomfield, defending, said Onut had pleaded guilty at an early opportunity and was of previous good character.

He added that apart from that, “there is not a great deal I can properly say”.

“He knows the seriousness of today and acknowledges it”, he said.

Judge James Adkin, the Recorder of Durham, jailed Onut for eight years and 10 months, calling the incident "catastrophic".

He was also banned from driving for 14 years and five months and must take an extended test.

The judge added that there was a possibility Onut may be deported following his sentence.

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