Truck driver killed student by driving wrong way on Scottish trunk road
A tipper truck driver killed a talented student in a head-on collision after driving along a dual carriageway the wrong way despite other motorists attempts to warn him of the danger.
Michael Friel ,57, kept driving on the A1 Edinburgh to Newcastle trunk road as other drivers swerved to avoid him and flashed their headlights before smashing into Meghan Ambrozevich-Blair’s car.
Miss Ambrozevich-Blair ,26, sustained multiple injuries in the crash and died despite efforts to save her, including aid given by an off-duty doctor and her fiance who was walking his dog in a field near the accident scene and went to help.
Friel admitted causing her death by driving dangerously on December 9 in 2016 on the road between the Spott and Thistly Cross roundabouts, near Dunbar, in East Lothian, after performing a three-point turn and driving the wrong way in the face of oncoming traffic.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Miss Ambrozevich-Blair, who was a keen animal lover, was posthumously awarded a first class honours degree in veterinary nursing from Edinburgh Napier University.
Advocate depute Alex Prenctice QC said Miss Ambrozevich-Blair had left her home at Haines Drive, in Dunbar, on the dark morning to drive to her part-time job at ‘Vets for Pets’ at Straiton retail park, at Loanhead, before the collision.
Friel had also set off for work from his sister’s home in Dunbar in the Ford Transit tipper heading for Little Spott, in East Lothian.
Mr Prentice said: “He joined the A1 southbound and had almost reached Torness nuclear power station before realising he was travelling in the wrong direction for his destination.”
He stopped and called his brother, who he worked for, and was told to return north to the Spott roundabout and wait for him at a supermarket.
Friel missed the turn at the roundabout and continued north on the A1 before realising that he had made a mistake and pulled up and began making a three-point turn.
One motorist negotiated a way past him and saw in his rearview mirror that the tipper was now being driven down the northbound carriageway in the wrong direction.
Mr Prentice said: “The accused drove in a southerly direction in the northbound carriageway. He encountered a number of vehicles travelling north at speed.”
“The drivers in five vehicles had to take immediate action by swerving and flashing headlights to avoid colliding with the accused’s vehicle. Two other drivers saw the accused’s vehicle and flashed headlights to alert him to their presence,” said the prosecutor.
Mr Prentice said: “Two drivers noticed the accused appeared to be oblivious to the danger presented and that he was staring straight ahead while driving.”
He said that Miss Ambrozevich-Blair was not travelling at excessive speed but overtook another driver who heard a loud bang after she took a bend and came on the crash scene.
The prosecutor said a number of people stopped and tried to help. They could see she was trapped in her Kia Cerato and appeared unresponsive.
An off-duty doctor started performing CPR on her and her boyfriend, who had been walking the dog when he heard the collision, went to help the medic. He also used another person’s phone to call her parents and they went to the scene.
A firefighter spoke to Friel who asked her: “When did this become a one way.” She said he was on the ‘motorway’ and that it had always been one way. Friel replied: “It used to be two way.”
A breath test on Friel proved negative and he was taken to hospital for treatment to fractures he sustained in the crash.
Mr Prentice said Miss Ambrozevich-Blair was in her fourth year at university at the time of her death and previously was awarded a medal as best HNC animal care student on graduating from an agricultural college in Dumfries.
He said: “A former pupil of Dunbar Grammar School, she regularly raised funds for the Scottish SPCA and campaigned against animal cruelty.”
The judge, Lord Arthurson, deferred sentence on Friel for the preparation of a background report and allowed him bail.
He imposed an interim driving ban on Friel, of Greenmills Brae, Macmerry, in East Lothian, who has one speeding conviction, and told him: “A substantial custodial sentence remains at the forefront of the court’s mind.”
A family statement, released through Digby Brown Solicitors, describes Meghan as “talented, caring and loving”.
It reads: “On the morning of the 9 December 2016 our world fell apart when our beautiful Meghan was taken from us.
“Meghan was talented, caring and loving in every way. She loved life and had it all in front of her.
“We lost an incredible daughter and sister, and her fiancé lost his soul mate and the family they planned to have.
“The suffering we have endured over the last two years since that day has been horrendous – we never thought it was possible to be in so much pain and still be alive.
“Days that were happy are now sad and our lives will never be the same again.
“Every driver who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle on public roads bears a huge responsibility to drive safely, within the rules, and abide by the law.
“They must also be held accountable for their actions when they cause pain and suffering to others.
“Like so many other tragedies, Meghan lost her life in a crash that need not have happened.
“We have faith that whatever punishment the court decides to impose will reflect the severity of this crime.
“We’d like to thank everyone for their love and continuing support.”