Dashcam footage captured the moment an ‘oblivious’ lorry driver ploughed into stationary traffic on a motorway and killed three people just moments after looking at adult dating sites including one called ‘S**g Today’.
Ion Onut’s cab is seen bursting into flames and careering a further 320ft along the A1(M) in County Durham after the initial crash caused an explosion.
The Romanian was jailed for eight years and 10 months at Durham Crown Court this morning after admitting three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
Couple David Daglish and Elaine Sullivan from Seaham, County Durham, and Paul Mullen from Washington, Tyne and Wear, died instantly.
Onut had been looking sites S**g Today and Mystic Match and had spent almost £50 to buy credits to engage with users, and was looking at profiles and editing his own over a period of 40 minutes leading up to the smash.
His last interaction on his phone was in the seconds before the collision and he was ‘utterly oblivious’ to the stationary vehicles ahead, the court was told.
Onut, 41, did not brake before driving into the line of traffic at 58mph.
Ion Onut (left) was driving a 3.5 tonne Scania LGV at almost 60mph when he ‘ploughed’ into queueing traffic near junction 61 at Bowburn, County Durham, on July 15, last year, killing three people including Paul Mullen (right)
Ion Onut’s cab is seen bursting into flames and careering a further 320ft along the A1(M) in County Durham after the initial crash caused an explosion
Sh*g Today and Mystic Match: The apps trucker was looking at before crash
Sh*g Today: UK-based hookup site that claims to have had more than 400,000 users signing up.
After setting up a profile, you can match with other users and chat to arrange a meet-up.
While it is free to receive messages, users have to buy credits to send messages to others on the site.
Packages range from £24.95 for 1250 credits, up to £249.95 for 17,500 credits.
It costs 100 credits to send a message and 50 to send a wink.
The site is open to straight or homosexual relationships, but reviewers say many of the users are paid professionals.
Rated 1.8 out of five on Trustpilot.
Mystic Match: Advertises itself as a website for people seeking ‘friendship and love’.
The website claims thousands join every day looking for different kinds of discreet relationships.
It works in a similar way to Sh*g Today, with users having to buy coins to send messages.
Rated 2.6 out of five on Trustpilot.
He first hit the back of the Vauxhall Crossland containing Mr Daglish, 57, and Ms Sullivan, 59, then smashed 51-year-old Mr Mullen’s Toyota Hilux under another lorry before carrying on along the road, injuring three others.
Judge James Adkin, who banned Onut from driving for 10 years after his release, said: ‘You were not asleep at the wheel, which would have been bad enough, in fact you were trawling the internet looking for casual sexual partners’.
In a victim personal statement read out in court, Ms Sullivan’s son and Mr Daglish’s stepson, Junior Sullivan, said: ‘Nothing could prepare me for being woken up to be told that my mam and dad had been killed in a car crash. It’s impossible for me to describe what went through my head at that moment, only that everything that was perfect about my life suddenly no longer existed. In that very moment my world had shattered and I became an empty shell. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move.
‘People tell you it’s okay to be upset and cry or to be angry, and they always say’ ‘if there’s anything I can do” – but what could anyone possibly do? There’s no how-to guide for dealing with the loss of both of your parents. For losing the only family you have. For losing the people who quite literally sacrificed everything to give you the best possible chances.’
Orlaigh Mullen, Paul Mullen’s daughter, said: ‘It’s difficult to put into words how much we miss our dad – losing a parent is something you think will never happen, you always think that they are invincible.
‘My dad was always there for us growing up. We looked up to him, he was the hardest working man I have ever met and ever will meet. He worked so hard for all of us.
‘I miss him coming home every Friday night and shouting ”hello” when he came through the door and giving us all a big hug.’
Bethany Claire, step-daughter of Mr Daglish and Ms Sullivan, wrote a tribute to the couple today following Onut’s sentence.
She said: ‘I’ll spend every minute loving and nurturing [our] two children that are now two grandparents short, loving and supporting the husband who’s now without parents and honouring your traditions wherever I can.
‘[Our children] have already lost out on so much, I won’t let them miss out on present parents.’
Couple David Daglish and Elaine Sullivan from Seaham, County Durham, were also killed by Onut
His last interaction on his phone was in the seconds before the collision and he was ‘utterly oblivious’ to the stationary vehicles ahead, the court was told
She also urged motorists to pay no mind to their phones in order to avoid similar tragedies. Ms Claire wrote: ‘Just put your phone in the glove box when you’re driving. Remove the temptation. It’s not worth it.’
Social media users who watched footage of the crash slammed Onut’s sentence as ‘pathetic’ and ‘not nearly long enough’.
Onut, who was living with his family in Galashiels, Scotland, and working for a haulage firm, was heading North with a load of fertiliser when he caused the crash around 6.15pm on July 15 2021.
A previous incident had caused traffic to build up and warning signs alerted drivers of delays and told them slow down, with other motorists observing a 50mph limit put in place.
But Onut was seen weaving across lanes prior to the crash, which happened near the Bowburn junction, and did not slow down.
Nick Dry, prosecuting, said analysis of Onut’s phone showed he had used it extensively while driving his lorry, and that he had been browsing the internet for 40 minutes before the collision.
Mr Dry said: ‘The telephone was found to have been in constant use.
Lorry driver Ion Onut was looking at sex sites on his phone when he caused a multi-vehicle smash which killed three people
‘The history showed the defendant had been accessing two adult dating sites – one, S**g Today, and another, called Mystic Match.
‘He had done so driving at speeds that never went below 50mph.’
Mr Dry added: ‘He was utterly engrossed in internet activity, in pursuit of sexual gratification, over an extended period of time while in control of a large goods vehicle on a busy motorway.’
Soldier Junior Sullivan, who lost his mother and step-father, told the court he felt ‘unbearable rage at the sight of other drivers using their mobile phones’.
Hard-working family man Mr Mullen was a loving father to his three children and was about to become a grandfather, his daughter Orlaigh told the court.
Lauren Cawton survived but was left with chronic leg pain and said her life has been ruined, while Molly Smith said the collision left her feeling stressed, angry and guilty during the final weeks of her pregnancy.
Lorry driver Michael Hosty ran to help Onut out of his burning cab and recalled grabbing him and saying: ‘Look, mate, if you don’t help me out we are both going to die.’
Mr Hosty now has post-traumatic stress disorder but said his suffering doesn’t compare to that of the victims’ families.
Richard Bloomfield, defending, said Onut felt remorse and passed on an apology from the defendant for the ‘devastation’ he caused.
Sergeant Catherine Iley said after the case: ‘It was incredibly distressing and upsetting for those who witnessed the collision and for the emergency responders, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics, who attended the scene.
‘The horror of what they witnessed that day will no doubt remain with them for many years to come.’