A LORRY driver who was using his mobile phone to shop online when he ran a red light and caused a crash which killed an armed forces veteran has been jailed.

Mark Byrne, from Warrington, was a granddad who had been awarded an MBE for his 25 years of military service.

He died at the age of 58 in January this year after a horrific collision on the East Lancs, with his wife Julie having also been ‘severely’ injured in the collision.

This morning, Monday, HGV driver Florin Solomon was handed four-and-a-half years behind bars at Manchester Crown Square Crown Court after admitting causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving in connection with the incident.

The 29-year-old, from Worcester, was delivering a shipment of fruit and vegetables in his Scania lorry shortly before 10.30am on January 21 but had been accessing his Amazon account via his mobile phone as little as three seconds before the accident.

Solomon then ran a traffic light which had been turned from green to red 11 seconds prior to the crash at the junction of the A580 with Atherleigh Way and hit Mr Byrne’s Toyota Corolla.

He was killed instantly after suffering multiple injuries including ’significant’ trauma to the head and spine, while 56-year-old Mrs Byrne – the front seat passenger – sustained a fractured sternum and had to be cut out of the car by firefighters.

The pair had been returning home from a hospital appointment at the time of the fatal crash, which occurred between the junction with Winwick Lane in Kenyon and Warrington Road in Glazebury.

Solomon – who appeared in court via video link to HMP Forest Bank – was travelling at around 49mph in the direction of Manchester at the point of collision, while Mr Byrne was turning right onto the East Lancs.

After the accident, which was caught on the Romanian defendant’s dashcam, the HGV collided with the central reservation and continued into the opposite carriageway.

When he was arrested at the scene, he told police: “I’m going to jail, I went through an amber.”

The court heard that Stefan Ratchford was a witness to the crash, having been driving behind the lorry, while his wife was among the Good Samaritans who rushed to the aid of the couple.

A statement on behalf of Mrs Byrne was also read out, describing how the pair had first met in 1966 when she was in nursery and he was in his first year at primary school.

Having first started their relationship in 1979, they were married in 1982 and had three children.

Mr Byrne served in Germany with the forces as well as having been a private soldier stationed at Whitehall, and later worked for the Ministry of Justice.

The statement added: “Everything is different, all my plans have changed – we did everything together.

“I have lost my soulmate, lover, companion, helper, carer and best friend.”

Craig and Samantha Byrne meanwhile described how the ‘sudden and unjust loss of their father had changed their lives forever’.

Defence barrister Rebecca Caulfield told the court: “It was my client’s own stupidity and recklessness that led to the death of Mr Byrne and the serious injury of his wife.

“Up until that day, he had lived a law-abiding life and was a reliable and trustworthy character.

“Mr Solomon is distraught – the reality is that he will have to deal with the fact that he killed someone for the rest of his life, especially a man of the calibre of Mr Byrne.

“He is still a young man and he can still make a positive contribution to society.”

Solomon will be banned from driving for four years following his release from prison.

Sentencing, judge Graeme Smith said: “Mr Byrne’s life was clearly a very happy and fulfilled life that resulted in a very positive impact on society.

“Mrs Byrne suffered injuries that have had a very significant impact on her – more significant of course was the death of her husband.

“In her words, she has lost her soulmate – and she has also lost her home due to the impact of Mr Byrne’s death on her financial position.

“Not surprisingly, she still has nightmares about that day and getting through every day is a task for her.

“You have been described as caring, helpful and generous and it is said you will never forgive yourself.

“This will be a burden on your conscience for the rest of your life, you were solely responsible for this tragedy.

“The dangers of using mobile phones while driving are well-known, that’s why it is a criminal offence to do so.

“They are even more so when using a HGV, when the consequences of any collision are far more serious.

“No sentence can possibly put a value on the life taken away.”