A GROOM-to-be was killed when his best man ploughed into a parked lorry after working 47 hours in just three days, a court had heard.
Traffic safety foreman Stephen Robinson, 33, was driving home after work with pal and colleague Alex Dixon, 34, when he mistook green cats eyes next to a lay-by for a slip road.
Tragic Alex, from Stockton, suffered horror injuries in the crash and died at the scene.
Robinson was caged for nine months at Newcastle Crown Court for causing his friend’s death by careless driving.
Devastated fiancee Gemma Ritzema, who had been due to marry her partner last week, said: “He was the most loving person, the kind of person to always put a smile on your face and who would do anything for anyone.
“We were due to be married last week but instead, one week later, I am sat in court listening to the moment my whole world came crashing down.
“I spent time planning his funeral when I should have been planning our wedding.
“I was his world, and he was mine. We have been robbed of a future together and starting a family, which we planned to do after our wedding.
We were due to be married last week but instead, one week later, I am sat in court listening to the moment my whole world came crashing down
Fiancee Gemma Ritzema
“I have been left with a life sentence of grief – without the one person I could always turn to and always rely on.
“I don’t recognise the person I am today because this is not me – this is not living, it is existing. The impact Alex’s death has had on our family can never be explained in just a few words.
“No sentence today could bring Alex back or ease the pain and suffering that we feel. We have lost the most wonderful, kind and generous person.”
Alex’s parents, Tommy and Yvonne, of Long Newton , previously told of their pride in their son .
They said: “Alex was the best son you could have ever wished for.
Pain and suffering
“He was an honest and kind person who had everything to live for. He had his whole future ahead of him, and we are all absolutely devastated by what happened.
“The last 17 months have incredibly difficult for everyone, and not a day goes by when we don’t think of Alex and the unfillable void he has left in our lives.
“No outcome today would have changed what happened and brought Alex back, and he will forever be in our hearts.”
The court heard Robinson and Mr Dixon were working for Premier Traffic Management and had been part of a safety convoy escort on roadworks on the A69.
They were heading back to their homes in Newcastle around 5.15am on March 22.
It’s a heavy irony you spent your employment in traffic safety management keeping many road users safe but when it mattered most, you didn’t realise the serious risk you had taken because of your sleep deprived state
Judge Tim Gittins
The court heard the HGV did not have parking lights on and its driver was asleep in his bunk, but Robinson still should have seen it. The HGV driver suffered minor injuries.
The police investigation showed Robinson had worked 47 hours in the three days leading up to the crash and had done a double 19 hour shift, with just a 90 minute break.
Judge Tim Gittins jailed Robinson for nine months and banned him from driving for 12 months after his release.
The judge said it was clear Mr Dixon was a “good man” who was on the “cusp of a bright future”, having got engaged and recently started a new job.
Robinson was due to be Mr Dixon’s best man and Mr Dixon was Robinson’s youngest child’s godfather.
Judge Gittins told him: “You were, I’m satisfied, in no fit condition to be driving that vehicle, albeit you had managed to do so for some distance, due to your sleep deprived state. There can be no other explanation for it.
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“No-one suggests you intended to cause it or intended any harm to befall your close friend, but it was an accident waiting to happen because of the condition you allowed yourself to drive in.
“It’s a heavy irony you spent your employment in traffic safety management keeping many road users safe but when it mattered most, you didn’t realise the serious risk you had taken because of your sleep deprived state.”
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