A LORRY driver who ploughed into the back of a line of virtually stationary traffic on the M6, killing two people, has been jailed for three years.

One of Paul Andrews' victims was another lorry driver from Norfolk who was catapulted out of his cab onto the road, while a motorist from Leicester was killed when his Peugeot car was crushed.

And more people could have died in the seven-vehicle pile-up if it had not been for the safe driving of one of the victims, a judge at Warwick Crown Court pointed out.

Andrews, 39, of Ffordd Edgeworth, Wrexham, who had admitted two charges of causing death by dangerous driving in his Daf articulated lorry, was also disqualified for four years.

Jane Sarginson, prosecuting, said the crash happened on the approach to junction 2 on the M6 southbound in Warwickshire just after December 12 last year. The first vehicle to be hit by Andrews' lorry was a Peugeot car being driven by David Edwards, a 41-year-old from Parvian Road, Wigston, Leicester, who was married with a two-year-old daughter.

He had been at the end of a queue of traffic which was either stopped or crawling at a very slow speed, but despite warnings and speed limits over the previous 2.8 miles, Andrews had not slowed and was still travelling at 51 mph.

Mr Edwards' Peugeot was hit so hard that it was forced under the rear of another lorry being driven by 46-year-old Jeremy Elyard, who was also married with a daughter, and Andrews' lorry went over the back of the car.

Such was the power of the impact that Mr Elyard's lorry was pushed into another lorry.

Mr Elyard, of Burnt Home Lane, Little Melton, near Norwich, was ejected from his cab onto the road and died as the third lorry then hit a van and another lorry.

Judge Christopher Hodson pointed out: 'It is the opinion of the officer who investigated this that Mr Elyard's safe driving, by leaving a gap in front, enabled one lady to move out of the inside lane and escape being crushed.'

Miss Sarginson said that apart from a small drop in Andrews' speed from 53 to 51, there had been 'no braking of any significance, if at all 'before the collision, despite warnings for 2.8 miles and speed limits of 50 and then 30.

Andrews told police he had been in the middle lane and had braked when a white van stopped suddenly, but could not stop and hit the Peugeot as he tried to avoid it.

But the evidence showed he had been in the nearside lane and had driven into the Peugeot without any braking whatsoever, said Miss Sarginson.

Stephen Crouch, for Andrews, said: 'He wishes to express his absolute horror and regret for what has happened, and his condolences for the Elyard and Edwards families. He will carry the regret and guilt for the rest of his life.'

Mr Crouch, who said Andrews had had an exemplary record as an HGV driver but will never drive one again, had not been using a mobile phone and was not knowingly tired, but had 'totally lost concentration'.

Jailing Andrews, Judge Hodson told him: 'There is a considerable amount of personal mitigation put forward on your behalf, but you should remember that your behaviour on that day has left two children without a father and two ladies without a husband.

'You drove that day for at least 2.8 miles at a time when you should have been aware, if you had been keeping a proper lookout, that there were hazard warning lights flashing and advisory speed limits.'