Worker recalls horror M6 crash that killed five as lorry driver goes on trial

By Marion Brennan | Stafford | Crime | Published:

Road workers watched in horror as a lorry driver ploughed into a car, killing five fruit pickers and seriously injuring a sixth, a court heard.

Emergency services at the scene of fatal M6 crash in which five people died

Four women and two men were travelling in a Nissan Micra when it was struck by Polish national Zbigniew Grzabel’s lorry in the early hours of May 24 last year.

The two vehicles were headed south on the M6 between junctions 15 and 14, near Stafford.

The lorry driver, a 60-year-old from Tipton, had failed to react to a loss of speed by the Micra travelling immediately ahead of him in the same lane, it was alleged.

Seconds before the collision at 4.20am, traffic management officer Joshua Walsh, working at the scene, shouted to colleagues: “He’s going to hit that car,” Stafford Crown Court heard.

There followed a huge shower of sparks as the lorry struck the car ‘with significant force, crushing the rear of the Nissan Micra car’, said Mr Andrew Smith, QC, prosecuting.

The victims, 45-year-old driver Marius Zevian and four back-seat passengers – Mr Zevian's wife Cucoana Zevian, 49, Gheorghita Radu, 56, Nicoleta-Marinela Florea, 42, and 34-year-old Marcela Sandu, all Romanians living in Stoke-on-Trent – had been on their way to work at a fruit farm near Stafford.

Another passenger, Aurel Sandu, who was asleep in the front, suffered serious injuries but survived. None of the women in the back were wearing a seat belt, Stafford Crown Court was told.

Mr Smith said: “It is the prosecution’s case that the deaths of these five people and the serious injuries to another person were caused by the dangerous driving of this defendant.”


Traffic officer Mr Walsh later told police that the Micra seemed to lose speed, although no brake lights were showing, as though the driver had taken his foot off the accelerator.

The court heard that that there had been mechanical problems with the car and it had pulled over onto the hard shoulder displaying its hazard lights, before continuing its journey shortly before the crash.

Collision investigators said there were some mechanical faults but none so serious that would have contributed to the accident, said Mr Smith.

The carriageway between junctions 15 for Stoke and 14 for Stafford was closed for seven hours as investigations into the crash took place and recovery teams cleared the wreckage – leading to major tailbacks on the motorway.


The lorry driver, who was unhurt, gave a negative breath test.

Employed by Clarke Transport, he had driven from Huddersfield and was headed for Oldbury when the crash happened.

Emergency medics and fire crews rushed to the scene but it very soon became clear that nothing could be done to save the victims.

Grzabel, of Glebefields Road, Tipton, denies five counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The trial continues.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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