Driver jailed after falling asleep and killing cyclist

The family of one of Britain's top cyclists killed by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel said they hoped the “ground-breaking” jail sentence would prevent similar tragedies.

The family of one of Britain's top cyclists killed by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel said they hoped the “ground-breaking” jail sentence would prevent similar tragedies.

Champion cyclist Zak Carr - who was set to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics - was struck on the A11 by pub landlord Donald Pearce who experienced a momentary “micro-sleep” and was last night beginning five years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving.

Norwich Crown Court heard Pearce was travelling back from Stansted on just two and a half hours' sleep when his car veered to the left near Wymondham and hit Mr Carr at up to 60mph.

He told the court he did not feel tired after his delayed, overnight flight from Turkey, did not see the “clearly visible” cyclist and could not explain why he did not stop immediately after the accident on October 17, 2005.

Pearce, 49, who ran the Farmhouse pub in Colman Road, Norwich, denied the charge but was convicted following a trial earlier this month and appeared for sentence yesterday.

Jailing Pearce and banning him from driving for seven years, Judge Simon Barham said he hoped the case would serve as a warning to other drivers who were tempted to drive when overly tired.

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“I recognise there are people who drive when unfit to do so through lack of sleep and I hope your case will serve as a warning to others who are tempted to drive in similar circumstances,” he said.

“It is particularly dangerous for those who travel home from holidays or business trips abroad during the night to get in the car and drive straight home from the airport without adequate sleep first.”

Mr Carr's parents Barry and Audrey, sister Leticia and widow Bev spoke after the hearing and described the sentence as “quite substantial” and “ground-breaking”.

Zak, 30, a record-breaking time-trialist from Attleborough, was en-route to a building job with his father in Norwich and was passed by Barry in his car minutes before the collision.

Yesterday, Mr Carr said that instead of forking out £40 to stay at a hotel at the airport, Pearce had cost someone their life and created an enormous hole that was impossible to fill.

“We hope this makes people aware that getting behind the wheel when you are tired is just as dangerous as getting behind the wheel if you have been drinking alcohol,” he said.

Asked if he had any sympathy for Pearce and his family, he replied: “Absolutely.

“He has got a 19-year-old daughter and he will, of course, not be out of prison before her 21st birthday, an important event in his daughter's life.

“While we can never forgive Mr Pearce for taking Zak from us, we are not vengeful people and hope that when this is all over he will be able to get his life back on track.

“To us, the case was never about revenge, but simply justice and the hope that through successful cases such as this, drivers are made to realise that dangerous driving in whatever form is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

“Zak had all these aspirations, all these things that were coming up in the next few years and it was all wiped out in that moment.

“It's left an enormous hole in our lives which can never be filled.”

Mr Carr took up racing at the age of 12 and enjoyed outstanding success - setting a British junior record for the 10-mile time trial in 1992 that has only just been broken, and representing his country at international level.

Bev Carr shared his passion for cycling and broke the 50-mile compet-ition record for mixed pairs with Zak three months before his death.