The man accused of causing the Selby rail disaster could see the faces of the passengers on board the GNER train as it ploughed into his stranded Land Rover, Leeds Crown Court was told yesterday.
Gary Hart, who is alleged to have caused the deaths of 10 people on 28 February, described the moment to a liability adjuster, Jeffrey Stagg, days after the crash, Mr Staff told the court.
Mr Hart's Land Rover and trailer left the M62 near Great Heck, North Yorkshire, and plunged down the embankment onto the east coast main line. It was hit by a southbound GNER express train travelling at 117mph, which then collided with a train carrying 1,600 tonnes of coal. Six commuters and four railway staff died.
Yesterday, Mr Stagg described the account given by Mr Hart, 37. "I had one hand on the bottom of the wheel and was driving on auto-pilot," he was quoted as having said at his wife's home in Lincolnshire on 3 March. "I heard a bang from somewhere at the back of the Land Rover. I put both hands on the wheel. Instantly the Land Rover went across to the side of the road. As soon as I hit the verge, I bumped along and then I listed 45 degrees.
"I thought I was going to go to the bottom of the embankment. I levelled off then I thought I was in a field. Then it went black and quiet. I went straight down. There was dust everywhere then it settled."
Reading from his interview notes, Mr Stagg told the court that Mr Hart then described how he had got out of his Land Rover and dialled 999.
Mr Hart said: "I was 20ft away when it hit the Land Rover. I saw the people on the train – I saw their faces. I phoned the police again and told them the train had crashed through the Land Rover."
Earlier, James Goss QC, for the prosecution, claimed the self-employed groundwork contractor, who is separated from his wife, had talked through the night to a woman he had contacted via an internet dating agency. At 4.40am, he had set off on the 145-mile journey from Lincolnshire to work.
James Horne, the director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, in Leicestershire, told the jury that motorists were vulnerable to falling asleep at the wheel between 2am and 6am.
Mr Hart, of Strubby, Lincolnshire, denies 10 counts of causing death by dangerous driving. The case continues.Reuse content