10/8/2016 – The victims of the A34 crash caused by Tomasz Kroker

a34-crash-victimsThe tragic story of Ethan Houghton, Tracy Houghton, Josh Houghton and Aimee Goldsmith.

Just a few seconds of distracted driving can take lives as well as ruining the lives of those who knew the victims, and nobody is more aware of that than the families of Tracy Houghton, Ethan Houghton, Josh Houghton and Aimee Goldsmith whose lives were ripped apart and changed forever after the tragic events of 10th August 2016, which killed four members of their families – three of them Children. The photo on the left was taken just a few days before the crash that would kill them.

First of all, I don’t know the Houghton or Goldsmith Families and I had never met the victims of the tragic crash which occurred on the A34 near Newbury on 10th August 2016, however the story of the crash really moved me at the time it was first reported by the national press, and their tragic and emotive story still both moves and angers me today, enough to write this blog in their memory, whilst respectfully using their story to highlight the very real dangers and risks of using a mobile phone whilst driving and to warn against this and similar distractions. If reading their story makes just one person stop and think twice about using a mobile phone or becoming distracted whilst behind the wheel, then that is also one potential tragedy averted and writing this blog will have been worthwhile, because situations like this are entirely preventable, and should never happen.

tracy-hougton-ethan-hougton-aimee-goldsmith

On 10th August 2016, Tracy Houghton and her partner Mark Goldsmith packed their extended family into their cars, in order to return to their home in Dunstable, Bedfordshire after a family camping holiday in Devon. Being a six member family with two dogs, they had to travel in two cars. Tracy’s children Ethan Houghton aged 13, Joshua Houghton aged 11 and Mark’s daughter Aimee Goldsmith also aged 11, traveled with Tracy in her Vauxhall Corsa whilst Mark and his 13 year old son, Jake followed in convoy in his Vauxhall Zafira. After exchanging hugs and kisses, this close & loving family set off for the long return journey home, little realising that by the Evening four members of their family would be dead, wiped out by the selfish and negligent actions of another driver, a professional driver who should have known better than to voluntarily engage in any kind of distraction whilst behind the wheel. The following events, chronicle the devastating effects of his decision to break the law and put the lives of other road users at risk by picking up a mobile phone that day – the lives of Tracy, Ethan, Josh and Aimee.

At approximately 4.00 pm, Tomasz Kroker arrived for work in Andover as a lorry driver, where his employer handed him the keys to a 40-tonne Mercedes HGV Truck. As part of his job driving the truck that day, Tomasz Kroker had to sign a contract with his employer before leaving the depot, a contract which stated that he would not use a mobile phone whilst in control of the vehicle. Tomasz, duly signed the contract, and drove the truck away, the start of his journey would take him up the A34 towards Oxford, a section of road where his own reckless actions would shortly lead him to be the cause of a catastrophic crash which would leave four people dead, and countless others mourning their passing.

— Tomasz Kroker may as well have been driving with his eyes shut

At 5.10 pm, the Houghton’s and Goldsmith’s were also driving up the A34, with Tracy’s car at the front and Mark directly behind, in front of Tracy was another large truck. Behind Mark were two other vehicles, a small Citroen panel van and a Mazda car, some distance behind the Mazda was Tomasz Kroker at the wheel of his Truck. But what was not known to the other drivers, was that Tomasz Kroker’s attention was focused away from the road ahead and onto his mobile phone, which he was using to play music through the in cab audio system. In fact despite signing a contract to the contrary just over an hour earlier Tomasz Kroker was already spending more time looking at his phone than at the road ahead, so much so that the judge sentencing him in Court three months later described the actions of Kroker in the final moments leading up to the accident as “may as well have been driving with your eyes shut”.

Ethan Houghton and Josh Houghton

 

Just ahead of Tracy the traffic on the Northbound A34 slowed to a stop, eventually bringing her car, and the cars behind her to a halt, however the highly visible queue of stationary traffic on his lane some distance ahead was not evident to Tomasz Kroker, whose eyes were still affixed down at his mobile phone where they remained for more than several seconds, as he browsed through his phone playlist of music tracks. Clearly alarmed by the rapidly approaching HGV in his rear view mirror, which was showing no signs of slowing, the Mazda driver at the back of the queue frantically switched on his hazard warning lights to warn the truck driver of the stationary traffic and the queue of cars ahead, but it was to no avail, as just seconds later, Tomasz Kroker drove his 40-tonne truck into the stationary cars at 50 mph, without even braking.

First to be hit in the concertina crash was the Mazda, which was tossed sideways by the impact landing on its roof in the grass verge, leaving the driver alive but with life threatening back, neck and internal injuries, next the truck hit the Citroen van, the impact forcing it around sideways and effectively using it as a battering ram, which then ploughed into the Vauxhall Zafira which was carrying Mark and Jake Goldsmith. Horrified, but unable to do anything to protect his family in the car in front, Mark’s car was forced into the back of Tracy’s car, pushing it so hard into the Truck in front that it forced the smaller car under the trucks’ trailer lifting the rear wheels of the trailer off the ground. Tracy’s Corsa was crushed to a third of its normal length, with the weight of the trailer also crushing down its roof. Tracy and the Children never stood a chance – they were all killed instantly.

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The actual crash was captured by two cameras fitted to the truck that Tomasz Kroker was driving, one camera was facing forward, and the other – a driver facing camera caught the shocking amount of time that Tomasz was distracted by his mobile phone. The video footage (which the Houghton & Goldsmith families have bravely agreed to release publicly), was used to convict Tomasz Kroker and is available to watch below. (Some viewers may find the accident captured in this video distressing).

 

One of the most emotive reports that I have ever read in any newspaper, was an interview with Mark Goldsmith recalling how, despite his own injuries, he raced to Tracy’s crushed car, in an attempt to help his family, to be at their side, something that any Father would frantically do. Hearing his own account of the horror which he saw happen in front of him and the immediate aftermath, his children and partner lying dead and beyond all help in the crushed carnage and all of the emotions and helplessness that he still feels today, is truly heartrending.

I can’t imagine any greater pain for any Parent than the death of a child but to lose three in such horrific circumstances, and witness it all happening just feet away from you is unfathomable, the lives of Mark and his young Son were changed forever that day, mental scars left inside that will never heal, the grief and pain of losing your family and the images of the aftermath which re-appear in countless nightmares. No parent should be burying their Children, certainly not because of the illegal distraction caused by a mobile phone. Jake Goldsmith, aged just 13 at the time, was left heavily traumatised and is still struggling to come to terms with what he saw alongside his Father that day. Barely able to sleep and attend school since the fatal accident, his parents report that he is not the happy boy he once was, but has become quiet and withdrawn, and that his whole personality has changed, yet another innocent victim of what Tomasz Kroker did that day.

— seven seconds was all it took, seven seconds of distraction to kill three children and their mother

Other members of the Family are just as deeply affected too. Doug Houghton, the Father of Ethan and Joshua Houghton, describes how Christmas for him is cancelled this year, not only because of the tragedy which happened just a few months earlier, but because Ethan, his eldest Son, has a Birthday which fell on 23rd December. Each Christmas and passing Birthday will no doubt bring memories of the accident, a painful and cruel reminder of the two young sons that he will now never see grow up. Whilst Tomasz Kroker will serve just five years out of the ten year sentence in prison, his actions that day have left the bereaved families of his victims facing a life sentence of a different kind.

The following video was recorded and released by Thames Valley Police and features interviews with Doug Houghton the Father of Josh and Ethan Houghton, and Kate Goldsmith, who was the Mother of Aimee Goldsmith, it also contains the emotional interview with Mark Goldsmith, who recalls the day, where he, along with his teenage son witnessed the accident which took the lives of his Partner, Daughter and two Step Sons. Please take the time to watch the video, as they each recall how the accident has affected them, and how they have been trying to cope in the months following 10th August 2016.

 

Seven seconds was all it took, seven seconds of distraction whilst driving to kill three innocent Children and their Mother, violently wipe them from existence, robbing them of their lives, whilst in turn also ruining the lives of the many people who knew and loved them, the effects of an accident like this are devastating, far reaching and never ending. Tomasz Kroker’s choices that day can never be undone, and the hurt it caused will continue and never heal and it was all so avoidable, simply by avoiding the temptation to pick up or look at a mobile phone whilst driving.

 

tracy houghton

On 31st October 2016, Tomasz Kroker was sentenced in Court to ten years in prison but will likely only actually serve five years (Kroker is eligible for Parole on 30/10/2021). This sentence was branded as being too lenient by many members of the public (myself included), however it is still a period which will take Tomasz Kroker away from his Family, many years which will leave them without a Husband, Father and breadwinner, and his own wife and young baby are just as much the victims of his choices on that day too. There are no winners in this equation, and no Hollywood style happy ending, just the bereaved left grieving and missing the Children and Family who will never return home. For others, its the feeling anger and frustration for the entirely preventable series of events which really should never have happened.

— Tragedies like this are so easily preventable, all it takes is to accept that we have a duty of care to other people on the road, a duty of care which includes avoiding needless distractions, like looking at or using a mobile phone

In putting the facts of this story together I have read many comments in the press and social media not only expressing a sense of loss and grief, but a heartwarming show of support and solidarity to the surviving members of the victims families too, and it is obvious that Tracy, Ethan, Josh and Aimee were much loved and respected by their peers and are now also desperately missed in their local community of Dunstable, and I hope that their families can gain some comfort from this.

You would think that, after so much media coverage and public outrage which followed this accident that using a mobile phone whilst driving would be a thing of the past just months after this accident occurred, but it isn’t, in fact I still see many drivers each day, driving along an using their mobile phones in some way, and even in the days following Tomasz Krokers prison sentence the media  photographed many more drivers still on their phones whilst driving – fully grown adults clutching their phones like some kind of adult comfort blankets, often with their own children in the car with them,  engaging in a distraction which increases the chances of causing a serious accident ten fold. Is this some kind of crazy addiction?, perhaps these drivers need to turn their phones off and leave them out of reach if they cannot put common sense first, and avoid the temptation to look at, or use their phones whilst driving.

— I'd like to see using a mobile phone whilst driving being as socially unacceptable as drink driving, and treated just as harshly. Just because there currently may be more daily instances of mobile phone use seen on the roads everyday compared to drink driving doesn't make it 'OK' or any more acceptable

Are you still using a mobile phone whilst driving? – Perhaps you drive along looking at, or using your phone thinking that something like this will never happen to you, and that you are perfectly able to multitask?. Tomasz Kroker was probably thinking exactly the same thing in the seconds leading up to him taking four lives. Its not an assumption or scare tactic, and its not what “could” happen, its what does happen and has happened. Go back and read the article again, watch the videos and look into the eyes of the parents whose Children were killed, then tell me how there is any instance where the risk of using a mobile phone whilst driving can ever be justified or excused.

aimee-goldsmithThere are calls for technology to be developed and play a part in preventing mobile phone use whilst driving in the future, but why do we need technology to step in?. We already have access to one of the most powerful pieces of equipment ever created, its called a brain and all that needs to change, is that a number of drivers need to start using theirs more.

We all make mistakes and accidents can happen, but there is nothing accidental about picking up and looking at a mobile phone, you would never accidentally or mistakenly find yourself in that situation, because picking up a phone is a decision – a choice, and not a mistake, accident or oversight!. For that reason I’d like to see using a mobile phone whilst driving become as socially unacceptable as drink driving, because it is just as abhorrent, and can kill. Both the acts of drink driving and driving whilst using / looking at a mobile phone are choices made after a thought process which resulted in a decision being made by the driver, often to just go ahead and do it anyway despite it being a criminal offence and with the knowledge of the risks which can happen as a result. Just because there may be more daily instances of mobile phone use on the roads everyday compared to drink driving doesn’t make it ‘OK’ nor will it lessen the grief of the family you kill when your luck eventually runs out and you cause an accident, nor the guilt that you have to live with as a result of killing somebody, or an entire family.

The media interest and coverage of this accident will, no doubt, eventually fade as time passes, so please share this blog page on social media, in order to keep the dangers of using a mobile phone whilst driving present in peoples’ minds and the tragic events that can occur as a result. If you know somebody who still habitually uses a mobile phone whilst driving, then please share this on their social networking pages, and let them know as their friend that doing this is no longer acceptable.

Please also sign the petition to increase the sentences of drivers who kill or maim innocent people. Ten years is simply not enough!.

I have also attached some free to use clip art images below, which if clicked will open full size and allow you to print them off in order to stick in the back windows of cars etc, to warn others that driving whilst using a mobile phone is not acceptable.

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Please remember that no call is a matter of life or death whilst driving, but choosing whether or not to use a mobile phone whilst driving can mean the difference between Life or Death for other people around you.

 

13 Responses to 10/8/2016 – The victims of the A34 crash caused by Tomasz Kroker

  1. Linsey Martin says:

    I cried when I read this, those beautiful children being killed like that please pass on our condolences to their families.

  2. Danny Olson says:

    I can’t understand the British justice system. Today two people were charged with manslaughter over the hgv accident which happened in Bath last year, charges brought due to failings of those key people in maintaining the hgv properly. I don’t have a problem with that as they deserve it, but what I can’t understand is why its any different to what that Kroker guy did, in my view people have died in both instances due to neglect of responsibilities and breaking the law. Sending a truck out in an dangerous condition or driving whilst looking down at a phone, both instances are neglectful and both are illegal and in each case multiple victims died, so what is the difference?.

    • Admin says:

      I agree 100% there is no difference at all, Tomasz Kroker should have faced manslaughter charges for killing this family and should have got longer than ten years. The sad reality is that the driver Tomasz will be a free man in five years, or at least seriously considered for release after that period. But I guess there is nothing either of us can do about that.

  3. Sophie says:

    I knew Ethan for five years and he would have been 14 today. Happy birthday Ethan I hope you are playing football with the angels and watching over us. We all miss you so much and think of you everyday xx.

  4. Graham Burgess says:

    Lorries should be banned from the roads it was only a matter of time before something like this happened as the drivers are always driving too close whilst talking on their phones, they seem to have no perception as to what they are driving and the damage it can cause. The only thing I’m surprised about is that this kind of accident doesn’t happen on our roads more often, its just a shame that there isn’t a common sense and intelligence test for these drivers as I reckon if one was brought in, about 3/4 of them would then be out of a job.

    • Admin says:

      I understand your anger Graham, but I think it is wrong to brand an entire industry and thousands of people you have never met over the reckless and irresponsible actions of one person. Yes, I see truck drivers on the phone on the roads every day, but I also see plenty of other drivers doing exactly the same thing, in cars and even buses. You say that you are surprised that this type of accident doesn’t occur more frequently, well perhaps that is because the majority of professional drivers on the roads, do take their responsibilities seriously and don’t use mobile phones whilst behind the wheel.

      Truck drivers have children and families too, and stories like this will affect them and stir the emotions, just the same as it does the majority of other people. When the news of this accident made the headlines in August 2016, I saw plenty of Drivers on the online comments sections of national newspapers venting anger towards Tomasz Kroker and lambasting the fact he was using a mobile phone, alongside everybody else.

      I feel that the only way to deal with this, isn’t a knee jerk reaction to removing certain vehicles from the road, or affecting peoples’ livelihoods by making their profession obsolete, its increasing the penalties for those who are caught doing it, even when an accident hasn’t occurred, regardless of what vehicle they were driving. Using a Mobile Phone whilst driving should carry a mandatory 12 month driving ban, just the same as drink driving does, and if you are caught a second time then it should be a longer ban or better still having their driving licenses revoked for life.

      I imagine that a long, instant driving ban, and increased insurance premiums for many years to come, should be enough to dissuade the majority of those who still choose to use a mobile phone whilst driving, even when made aware of accidents like the one on the A34, for others then perhaps a lifetime driving ban would be the only way left to get them off the roads. That way, they could walk or use the bus / tube and therefore use their phones as much as they like when travelling by other methods – so we will all be happy.

      For accidents proven to have been caused by mobile phone use whilst driving, then it should be a manslaughter charge at the minimum and a long prison sentence. The sheer number of those who continue to use their mobile phones whilst driving is proof that the existing system, even when recently expanded to more points and a higher fine, still isn’t getting the message home, and sadly neither is the stark reality and images of the accidents and needless loss of life that occurs when the effects of distracted driving make the headlines.

  5. Agnieszka Ciesielska says:

    I cry for many hours after I read your words, for those happy children and their beautiful Mama all gone for good but I not understand why all of the hatred for the polish people because of Mr Kroker his actions was very bad but he did not act for all polish and many polish people also angry at Mr Kroker and feel very hurt that this happened and feel many sorrows for family

  6. Campbell Family says:

    I was so touched by this story, I have two boys of 9 and 13 and I cannot imagine how I would cope if anything happened to them, and to read this is so heartbreaking. Is there any way that we could send a card to the family and perhaps make a donation to help?, it seems so little but I feel like we should do something just to let them know that they are in our thoughts and prayers?. Could somebody email [edited by admin]. Lizzie, Bryan, Freddie and Daniel

    • Admin says:

      Sorry, but I do not know either of the families nor have any contact with anybody who knows them. Its now 8 months since the accident, and although I recall that there were a few official fundraising activities by the Childrens’ School and various Community Events I would think that the original fundraising would be closed by now. Obviously I would warn against randomly donating via ‘Just Giving’ and similar sites unless they are deemed to be official fund raising activities, as i’m sad to say that even tragedies like this one, draw plenty of scammers and opportunity seekers and on that basis i’ve also removed your email address from your post in order to prevent such approaches. The only thing I can suggest, is that you make a donation in the memory of Tracy, Ethan, Aimee and Josh to an official registered charity such as The Road Victims’ Trust.

  7. Rubber Duck says:

    I was on Holiday abroad when this accident occurred so I was unaware of the enormity of it until I returned home, and as a Father and Driver myself I was shocked and saddened that it had been caused by somebody from within my own industry. I am not surprised that members of the public have such a jaded view of us, given that I still see far too many drivers using their phones everyday, in vehicles similar to my own and doing the same occupation and I can understand why people like Graham have such a negative opinion which, although harsh, does have a ring of truth about it, at least in relation to some drivers.

    I have driven in this industry for 28 years, and in that time i’ve seen technology change from Maps, A-Z’s and CB Radios, to Sat Navs, Mobile Phones and Tablets, and although they bring many uses they also inevitably can bring the opportunity for distraction, at least among those who lack the will power to ignore calls and texts and shuffle through their music collection whilst driving. In fact its frightening at just how many from within my own industry, still openly condone mobile phone use, and actively excuse it, usually along the lines of that unlike some of their colleagues, they are capable of multitasking or that its no worse than talking to a passenger or worse still, that its some sort of act of Bravado to be able to drive whilst using a mobile phone.

    Please read the discussions below, directly linked to a Forum for Truck drivers. Although its clear that the vast majority of drivers abide by the law (and common sense) and accept the risk that Mobile Phones pose, it is equally frightening, at just how many try to excuse it, or simply hint that they will carry on regardless of the change in the penalties and the risks, or openly belittle mobile phones being a distraction and try to pass it off as hysteria, and these are individuals using the roads everyday.

    http://www.trucknetuk.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=141044
    http://www.trucknetuk.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=145106
    http://www.trucknetuk.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=145792

    I then wonder why some drivers are crying their eyes out about driver cameras being fitted into our cabs, why more and more systems are being fitted into trucks to monitor our driving behaviour. Well Drive, perhaps its because our TM’s and employers are also reading these public discussions, maybe they read the flippant comments and worry that we no longer take road safety seriously, and so no longer trust us to abide by the law when driving their expensive machinery and representing their name, perhaps they feel that we are immature enough to take risks, just like the driver did who wiped out this family.

  8. Erica Jennings says:

    I live locally to the area where this happened and I drive the A34 to work and back every day, and each time I pass the spot where the crash occured I am reminded of the accident which cost the lives of Tracy, Ethan, Josh and Aimee and feel saddened for what the Goldsmith and Houghton families have lost and how they must still be feeling today. The sadness turns to anger when I see drivers along the same stretch of road, still using their phones, which I do nearly every day and some days I see more than one. The A34 has a bad reputation and has had far more than it s share of accidents and there are many campaigns afoot to improve the road layout, but in my opinion there is nothing wrong with the road, it is the driving along it which needs to be improved as it attracts some very poor drivers taking needless risks and I hate to say it but lorry drivers do appear to be the worst.

    We have speed cameras fixed to our roads which issue fines for exceeding the speed limit, surely the technology exists for cameras to also detect mobile phone use too?. The accident last year is still very much on the minds of most people in our village and very few people think that improving the A34 will make any difference to those driving dangerously or whilst using their phones.

  9. Kath Coombes says:

    That accident video is disturbing please take it down

    • Admin says:

      Kath, this video is not just something which I have found leaked on the internet, it was released with the permission of both of the families involved, shortly after Tomasz Kroker’s Court Case and conviction and if this was not the case I would never have dreamed of posting it. I appreciate that the video may be disturbing to some but I have put a warning up, and so people can make their own informed decision as to whether they watch it or not. I really hope that they do, because of the stark reality of what happened, and all because some **** decided that changing music on his phone was more important than concentrating on the road ahead, and that selfish decision took the lives of four people.

      Take a look at the photos above, three of those four Children are now gone, just memories to the people who knew them, wiped out in the accident that you see on the Dashcam video above, and so its not going to be a video of fluffy lambs and tweeting birds, its footage of a serious accident which took four lives in just a few seconds, and left their families broken and devastated. Two other Family members witnessed this happening from the car behind, they witnessed their loved ones being crushed to death in the wreckage of their car by a 40 Tonne Truck doing 50 mph, I can’t sugar coat that, or describe it any differently than what it is, but I suspect what we see on the Video is nothing compared to what those two people saw that day and the flashbacks which I have no doubt they will still be haunted by today, that kind of thing follows you around for life, whilst the world continues to move on, the effects of this are far reaching and just as devastating nearly Twelve months later. If I thought that taking this Video down would bring these Four people back, I would do it in an instant, but removing the video is not going to undo what happened or change the outcome, in fact the whole point of the Families’ releasing the video was to shock, which seems to be the only way they can educate drivers against doing what Tomasz Kroker did on August 10th 2016, and perhaps prevent our obsession with phones causing the same devastation to other families, and I am more than happy to continue to do my small part in helping them achieve that goal.

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