Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

Lorry driver who killed Canadian oil millionaire, 80, in M23 crash during London to Brighton veteran car rally is convicted of causing death by careless driving after he was using mobile phone at the wheel

  • Michael Black was using his phone when he ploughed into back of a vintage car
  • The lorry driver, 52, was ‘not keeping a good lookout’ as he was distracted by call
  • Ronald Carey, 80, died in crash and wife Billi suffered life-threatening injuries
  • The couple travelled from Canada to take part in annual London to Brighton rally 
  • Black sobbed in dock as he was convicted of causing death by careless driving

By Jamie Phillips For Mailonline

Published: 18:09, 17 November 2021 | Updated: 19:21, 17 November 2021

A lorry driver who killed a Canadian oil millionaire after causing a fatal crash on the M23 during the London to Brighton veteran car rally was using his mobile phone at the wheel.

Michael Black, 52, ploughed into the back of a 110-year-old vintage car as it travelled at 21mph along the four-lane motorway after making a wrong turn on November 3, 2019.

Ronald Carey, 80, suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. 

His wife Billi, who was sat alongside him in the front passenger seat, also suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash. She was airlifted to hospital from the scene and survived the incident.

Black, of Crawley, West Sussex, was convicted of causing death by careless driving at Guildford Crown Court on Wednesday. He was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

The court heard that Mr and Mrs Carey had travelled from Canada to take part in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in their 1903 Knox Runabout ‘Old Porcupine’ car.

Ron Carey, 80, had been at the wheel of a 1903 Knox Runabout ‘Old Porcupine’ vehicle with his wife Billi. This photograph is thought to have been taken hours before he died

Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run route is pictured in green, while the route believed to have been taken by Mr Carey yesterday is seen in red

The 60-mile run began in London’s Hyde Park at dawn, with the route taking drivers down the A23 through Gatwick, Crawley and Burgess Hill before the first car arrived at Madeira Drive, Brighton, shortly after 10am. 

However, Mr Carey mistakenly took the slip road for the M23 rather than the designated A23 route.

Black, driving a Scania tipper truck, meanwhile, had collected a load for the smart motorway works on the M23 and was on his way to dispose of it.

His lorry struck the rear of the vintage car, causing both Mr and Mrs Carey to be thrown from the vehicle. 

Analysis of his phone showed a phone call was in progress when the crash took place. 

Scott Brady, prosecuting, told the court: ‘They were in the third lane and ahead of Black. He was directly behind them in lane three.

Shortly after 10am, Black’s Scania collided with the Knox. 

‘If Black had been keeping a good lookout this accident would not have occurred.

He was not keeping a good lookout because, in his own words “I wasn’t looking, I looked down and they were there”.

‘He said he wasn’t keeping a good lookout because he was distracted by a phone call he was trying to make to a friend.

He was certainly making a phone call at the time of the collision and he admitted as much, in a police interview.

‘He said it was “ringing, ringing, ringing and it did not connect and I impacted with the vehicle”.’

Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

The Careys on the Mall at the start of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in November 2019

Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

The Canadian couple took the wrong lane and ended up on the M23 instead of the designated A23 route used for the rally

Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

Police at the scene following the crash at the junction of the A23 and the M23 in Surrey in 2019

Dashcam footage displayed to the jury showed the orange lorry smashing into the rear of the open-top Knox.  

Police Constable Joanna Robins told the court that the Knox was ‘potentially in view for 14 seconds’ before the collision took place.

The jury was also played the harrowing 999 made by Black in the moments after the crash.

It showed the lorry driver pacing back and forth between his vehicle and the mangled wreckage of the Knox as he made the call.

As he watched the footage, Black closed his eyes and let out an audible sigh while he sat wearing a smart black suit, emblazoned with a poppy, in the dock.

He sobbed uncontrollably as the verdicts were read out, while his wife was also in tears in the public gallery. 

Black will be sentenced on December 8. 

Mr Carey, who had made his fortune after founding oil supply company J&L Supply, had been a veteran car enthusiast since the 1980s and had contributed to museums and collections around the world, including his personal collection which was worth an estimated GBP3.8 million.

Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

Mr Carey, pictured with his wife Billi, was described as ‘very well-respected and well-liked’

Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

A listing for Mr and Mrs Carey’s vehicle on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run website, which states it was registered in Arizona, has since been taken down

Lorry driver who killed millionaire in M23 crash was using his phone

Police officers are pictured at the scene in 2019 as well as a Highway Maintenance vehicle

The couple had specially shipped the car to the UK to take part in the rally and the jury was shown a picture of the pair wrapped up in warm clothes just hours before the fatal crash.

Mrs Carey listened to proceedings via video link from Arizona. 

 Speaking after his conviction, Detective Constable Kelly Newton said: ‘Black’s defence was that he simply did not see the car in front of him until it was too late as a result of “looming” and the sun being a distraction.

‘Today’s verdict has reinforced that this isn’t in fact accurate and he was distracted by the use of his mobile phone.

‘I hope that the guilty verdict delivered today sends a clear message to other drivers, that losing concentration, even for a few seconds, can have devastating consequences.’