A Slovakian motorist, who was over the alcohol limit, drove the wrong way along the M62 crashing head-on into another car seriously injuring a police officer inside.
Jaroslav Balaz had left Bradford to drive to Kent on a wet evening in October last year although he had drunk copious amounts of vodka the night before and beer during the day.
He then pulled off at Hartshead Moor services for petrol and a sleep. When he woke up he went down the entry slip road by mistake rejoining the motorway and heading straight towards oncoming vehicles.
Charlotte Worsley prosecuting told Leeds Crown Court today (Tuesday) one lorry driver on the inside lane managed to swerve and avoid him and could only watch in horror in his mirror as Balaz reaching 60-70mph in his Vauxhall Zafira crashed head-on with an Audi.
Inside that vehicle was Detective Sergeant Sharon Kaye from Holmfirth who was driving home from work and had no chance to avoid him.
Debris from the impact was showered into other three other vehicles which were damaged and officers described it as a scene of “carnage” causing one of the busiest roads in the country to be closed for several hours.
Mrs Kaye suffered devastating and life-changing injuries. She was trapped in her car for 45 minutes before she was cut free by fire officers.
She had two fractured ribs, a broken wrist, bleeding on her liver and had to have extensive surgery for spinal injuries that included the removal of three vertabra from her neck.
The court heard following that she was bed-ridden for months, she had problems swallowing without choking, and had to have extensive physiotherapy to learn to walk again.
Although she has made “a remarkable recovery” more than a year later the judge said the job she loved, and which she had done for several years she is no longer able to do as fully as before.
Her hobby was ski-ing and she will also not be able to do that.
Balaz also suffered fractured ribs. An hour and a half after the crash he was found to have 110 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, the limit being 80. His insurance police was also found to be invalid because he had said he had a full UK driving licence when he did not.
He accepted he had been drinking vodka the previous night and had some beer during the day before setting off to drive to Kent to see his parents.
Miss Worsley said Balaz should have been sentenced in March but the day before he fled the UK flying out of Leeds Bradford airport to Prague and then onward to his home in Eastern Slovakia where he was eventually arrested in September after a European arrest warrant was issued.
He was brought back to Yorkshire earlier this month. John Boumphrey representing him said he had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity after the crash to show his remorse but had then worried about his family would be supported without him.
That had led him to uproot them all back to Slovakia. He had not intended to drive that day after he had been drinking but set off to collect his parents after they said they were being evicted from their home in Kent.
He had a European driving licence and thought he was insured when he decided to go and help them. He accepted he was tired and had a rest at the service station and did not see the No Entry sign when he took the wrong slip road possibly because his windows were steamed up.
He had only driving about 150 metres on the motorway when he saw the lorry and pulled left to avoid it. “He was bewildered by what he saw and wasn’t able to make the calculation quick enough to avoid a collision.
Balaz, 38, formerly of Hastings Terrace, Bradford admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving, driving over the prescribed limit and having no insurance for which he was jailed for 30 months and banned from driving for four years. He was given a further one month consecutive for failing to attend court in March.
Sentencing him Judge Rob Mairs told him “This was an utterly appalling incident of dangerous driving.”
“You made a deliberate decision to embark upon a long journey at night whilst unfit to drive.”
He said Balaz had told the probation officer he had drunk several litres of vodka the night before with friends and then beer in the morning and at lunchtime. “Nothing justifies taking to the road in that condition.”
“There was inevitably going to be catastrophic consequences resulting from that driving.”
“A lorry driver managed to swerve to avoid you, Sharon Kaye was not so lucky.”
She had suffered devastating injuries including the spinal damage and loss of her voice box, devastating not only for her but her wider family in her own words in a victim impact statement she said. “There is not one aspect of my life that has not been affected by this incident and my injuries. It has caused me great anxiety stress and worry about my future health, my employment and quality of life and will continue to do so.”
Judge Mairs said Balaz might have expressed remorse and pleaded guilty but that had to be tempered with his fleeing the country in March “seeking to avoid justice.”