Lorry driver was using phone when he killed Canadian oil millionaire

Lorry driver, 52, was using his mobile phone when he killed Canadian oil millionaire, 80, and injured his wife after crashing into their 116-year-old Knox car that had accidentally ventured onto the M23 during London to Brighton rally, court hears

  • Michael Black, 52, had been trying to call a friend on his phone when he crashed
  • Black crashed his lorry into the back of a vintage car driven by Ron Carey, 80
  • Mr Carey took a wrong turn off the official route of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 2019 and ended up on M23 with wife Billi
  • Mr Carey died at the scene, while his wife suffered serious injuries in collision 

A lorry driver was using his mobile phone when he killed a ‘well-liked’ Canadian oil millionaire and seriously injured his wife after crashing into their vintage car that had accidentally strayed onto a motorway during a veteran car rally.

Michael Black, 52, had been trying to call a friend on his phone when he crashed his Scania truck into the back of a car driven by Ron Carey, 80, a court heard. 

Mr Carey, of Calgary, Alberta, had been at the wheel of the 1903 Knox Runabout ‘Old Porcupine’ vehicle during the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run on November 3, 2019. 

Mr Carey, who was a well-known member of vintage car clubs and business circles in his home city, is said to have taken a wrong turn off the official route onto the M23.

He was declared dead at the scene and his wife Billi, who was his passenger, was flown to hospital in London by air ambulance, suffering from serious head injuries.

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

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

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

Guildford Crown Court heard today that Mr Black was driving his lorry on the northbound carriageway of the M23 motorway when he used a works exit to turn and join the outside lane of the southbound carriageway.

Prosecutor Scott Brady told the jury that Mr and Mrs Carey had taken a wrong turn and were in the third lane of the motorway near Hooley, Surrey, Black pulled out behind their vehicle.  

He said: ‘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.

‘He ran into the back of the Knox veteran car and tragically, in this case, Mr Carey was killed in the collision. His wife was badly injured. She sustained multiple injures and was helicoptered to hospital, where thankfully she survived.’

The jury of seven men and five women were shown a video of the route Mr Black had taken in his lorry and heard a description of the location of the crash.

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

Throughout the evidence, the lorry driver sat emotionless in the dock, wearing a smart suit emblazoned with a poppy.

Mr Brady explained to the jury how Black had confessed to a member of the public in the moments after the crash that he had not been watching the road properly.

The prosecutor said: ‘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’.’

The jury heard that an examination of Black’s phone had revealed that he had been attempting to call his friend ‘Ritchie’ at the moment of the crash, before hanging up and calling 999.

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

Earlier, Judge Miranda Lees had heard that the Mr and Mrs Carey had shipped their black, open-top car over from Canada to participate in the world-famous veteran car rally.

Mr Brady said: ‘Mr Carey was heading towards Brighton. It seems that at a point on the A23 the Carey’s were travelling south and Mr Carey made a mistake about signage and they turned onto the M23. That was just before the Hooley turnaround.

‘They continued in the right lane to travel south. After a discussion with his wife, Mr Carey realised they had probably taken a wrong turning.’

The court was shown footage of the crash from Black’s lorry as well as being walked through the records of the trucker’s phone. Closing his opening statement, Mr Brady said: ‘It is a tragedy, no doubt about it, this was tragic. It is really awful.’

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 £3.8 million.

His widow listened throughout the hearing on a remote link from Arizona, USA.

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

It is thought the pensioner may have taken the wrong lane and ended up on the M23 yesterday 

At the time of the crash, a spokesman for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run said: ‘The car involved in the tragic incident on the M23 had been entered in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

‘The car had left the route, which does not include the M23 where the collision took place. We are doing all we can to support the family concerned and are working with the police.’

At the time, Mr Carey’s friend Rick Pikulski, 62, told MailOnline: ‘On car tours, and we’ve been on many, it’s a common thing when you drive antique cars – in the olden days people used to give you a wave and a wide berth – these days if you’re on these faster driving roadways, people are more likely to give you the finger and tell you to get off the road. 

‘We tend to stay off the faster roadways especially given you are going 25 to 30mph and in this case they should have been on scenic country roads. How he ended up on an expressway like that I don’t know.’ 

Mr Carey was the founder of oil supply company J&L Supply and was also a major contributor to vintage vehicles at two museums, Gasoline Alley and Pioneer Acres.

Photographs showed Mr Carey’s vehicle, which had no indicators and a top speed of 35mph, all but destroyed in the accident in 2019. 

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

Mr Carey, who owns a £3.8million classic car collection and a home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, is thought to have competed at the race in 2011, 2012 and 2013. 

Hundreds of car enthusiasts take part in the 60-mile rally every year. The tragedy follows the death of another 68-year-old driver in the event two years ago.

Mr Carey, who was born in 1939 in Regina, Saskatchewan, was orphaned as a baby and was taken in by his mother’s grandparents. 

Aged 17 he went to work on the oil rigs in winter, while in the summer he was involved in road construction, operating crawler tractors and earth moving buggies.

He said: ‘I was never without a job. When the rigs were operating, I was on one. When they were shut down, I would get a job doing whatever was available.’

Mr Carey worked his way up the career ladder with various drilling contractors before starting his own company, J&L Supply, in 1973.

He is also said to have a trophy room with one of the biggest and best sheep collections in the world, with 36 species as well as 24 from the Capra (goat) family.

An air ambulance flew Mrs Carey to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London, yesterday

Mr Carey is well-known in Alberta for the classic cars he has donated to museums, along with old trucks, gas pumps, signs and other items from farms and auctions.  

The four-seater rear-wheel drive Knox Runabout was designed by Harry A Knox – one of the pioneers of the horseless carriage industry in the US – and initially sold for $2,000.

They were known as the Knox Waterless because of the air cooling system, or more familiarly the ‘Old Porcupine’.

One model fetched around £53,000 when sold at auction in 2012. The accident comes two years after 68-year-old David Corry was killed when his 1902 Benz was involved in a four-car crash.

Local resident Jocelyn Gregory, who saw the crash, criticised the organisers for poor signage and a lack of stewards on the route.

‘There were not clear enough signs at the junction,’ she said. ‘If you are not familiar with the area, then it is an easy mistake to make. It was not organised properly. It is a huge junction. There should have been stewards.

‘When the lorry hit, they flew up into the air like rag dolls. It was awful. I am not sure how the other passenger was still alive.’

More than 400 vehicles dating from before 1905 were registered in the 2019 run. Television gardener Alan Titchmarsh was among those taking part. 

The rally dates back to 1927 and commemorates the Emancipation Run of 1896 which marked the new-found freedom of motorists after the speed limit was raised to 14mph and the need for a man carrying a red flag to walk ahead of cars when they were being driven was abolished.

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.

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. 

Black, of Peppard Road, Crawley, West Sussex, denies one count of causing death by dangerous driving and another of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The trial continues.         

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