Tears were heard in the public gallery at Hove Crown Court today as a dangerous driver was jailed following a head-on collision that claimed the life of a young Lancing dad.
Joseph Onoyeyasorho, a 36-year-old garage worker, of Anderson Close, Newhaven, was sentenced to 32 months in prison, after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving following the collision at Rottingdean on December 6, last year.
The court heard that Ross Kirk, a dad-of-two, of Tower Road, Lancing, was travelling southbound on his motorbike on the B2123 Falmer Road early that morning – a route he took routinely for work – when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle which was on the wrong side of the road. He was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, where he later tragically died from his injuries. It was his 29th birthday.
His family have paid tribute to him: Family's tribute to Lancing dad killed in head-on collision: 'He was the heart of the family'
Onoyeyasorho was driving a black Nissan Juke on the opposite side of the road, behind a coach, the court heard. He started to overtake two vehicles on approach to a left-hand bend with a restricted view when the fatal collision happened.
Mr Kirk emergency braked, the court was told, and dropped his motorbike in order to dismount and avoid the head-on collision, but both Mr Kirk and his bike collided with the front of Onoyeyasorho's car. Mr Kirk suffered multiple injuries to his torso in the incident, the court was told. Onoyeyasorho did not suffer any injuries.
Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, told the court that it was dark at the time of the collision, but there was street lighting, which was working. He said the weather conditions were damp and the road was slightly wet. He said the road has a speed limit of 30mph and that Onoyeyasorho was trying to overtake the coach in front of him, which was travelling at the correct speed limit. Mr Kirk's emergency braking was not an 'unexpected' or 'unrealistic' response, Mr Edwards told the court, and his speed was not an instrumental factor in the collision.
He said Onoyeyasorho had told witnesses at the scene that he had not touched Mr Kirk and that Mr Kirk had 'panicked and fell off his bike'. He added that Onoyeyasorho's mobile phone was analysed and from 6.18am to 6.37am that morning, eight calls to and from had been made. The collision happened at approximately 6.41am.
'He was my rock'
Mr Edwards read out two victim impact statements, from Mr Kirk's mother, Christine, and Mr Kirk's father, Robert.
The first, written by Christine, said: "Losing my first born son has had a detrimental impact on us as an entire family. He was the rock that kept us together. When I lost him I lost my best friend and champion I ever had.
"He was my favourite - my special one. He worked alongside his dad every day and the hardest time at the moment is that now he doesn't walk in behind him.
"Ross' children haven't really taken in the fact that their dad isn't coming home. There was no chance to say goodbye.
"Ross and Charlie had a solid relationship and planned to get married and have a long future together. She has lost having two children to share her future with. We as a family will always feel empty and lost forever."
'Big man with a big heart'
The second, written by Robert, said: "He was a big man with a big heart and helped friends and family alike.
"I am not sure how to begin the devastation that this has had on our family.
"As for me, I am proud to say he is my son. I am proud that he served his country in the army. I miss our random phone calls."
The court heard that Onoyeyasorho had no previous convictions or cautions and no endorsements on his driving licence, which was full.
Paul Rogers, defending, told the court that Onoyeyasorho 'fully recognised that he was the sole cause of the death of Mr Kirk', due to his driving, poor judgement and actions that morning.
He said he was 'extremely distressed' by the incident and was 'very concerned' for Mr Kirk and his family and was trying to help Mr Kirk after the collision. He also noted he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
Some words, written by Onoyeyasorho, were read out by Mr Rogers. They said: "I would like to take the opportunity to convey my deepest condolences to Mr Kirk's family, a day I will never forget in my life."
They added that it was a day he 'wished he could take back and change', and that he understood what it felt like to lose a loved one as his own father died when he was aged 15.
He said he did not know if he could ever forgive himself and that he would like to say he was 'truly sorry to Mr Kirk's family and his loved ones for what he has done'.
Mr Rogers said that Onoyeyasorho was not in a rush that day and that there was no suggestion of him using his mobile phone.
He told the court: "This was a dreadful mistake, but it took place in a matter of seconds, a calculation that was wrong, a crass error of judgement. There is nothing he can do or say that can change it. All he can do is plead guilty and accept the consequences of what will happen to him."
Mr Rogers told the court that there was no suggestion that Onoyeyasorho had been drinking or taking drugs and that all tests were taken. He added that there was no suggestion he was travelling at an inappropriate speed.
He said a custodial sentence would have a 'significant impact' on his wife and their two young children, aged four and one, and his third child, due to be born in the new year.
Onoyeyasorho was 'hardworking', Mr Rogers told the court, and had two jobs - a mechanic by day and security at Shoosh nightclub in Brighton at weekends.
'Error of judgement'
Sentencing Onoyeyasorho, Judge Jeremy Gould QC said it was 'his duty to impose a custodial sentence'.
He said: "You are a decent man, you will have felt their pain, as all in court did, when those statements were read out, and sadly their pain results from your error of judgement on the day in question.
"There is no hiding from that and I know you don't seek to hide, having pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
"No sentence that I and any judge can possibly compensate the family of Ross Kirk for their loss. But there must be some proportionality in the sentence."
He told the court that the case was 'heart-rending' and that Mr Kirk was a 'respectable, much-loved family man' and that his heart went out to his family.
Onoyeyasorho must serve at least half of his 32-month sentence and will be released on licence for 16 months thereafter. He was also disqualified from driving for four years from the date of his release and must take an extended driving test after this period.