A WIDOW wept as she told how her husband kissed her goodbye just before he was killed in a horrific crash on one of Northern Ireland's most dangerous roads.
Oliver Ward, 57, died after he smashed into the back of an articulated lorry at one of many accident blackspots on the A1 carriageway.
The truck, driven by 64-year-old Andrew Mayne, was sitting in a "gap junction" on the route as he attempted to cross the busy road – with the trailer blocking part of the fast lane.
There are no streetlights at the crossing, and father-of-three Mr Ward ploughed into the back of the lorry in pitch black at 7am in January 2006.
Forensic scientists told an inquest into his death that he probably did not see the trailer protruding into his lane until it was too late.
Crash site investigator Steve Quinn said: "It is highly likely he could not see the trailer because the angle of the truck probably blocked any view of the rear headlights.
"There were no signs he changed course or swerved, suggesting he had very little reaction time."
The force of the impact was so great parts of Mr Ward's car were left hanging from the lorry.
It also sent his Fiat Maria spinning over the central reservation and into the opposing lanes of traffic, where he collided with another lorry.
Mr Ward was rushed to the A&E unit of Lagan Valley Hospital with a fractured jaw, eight broken ribs and lacerations and bruises to his liver, lungs and spleen. He died at 8.25am.
His distraught widow Maura said after the inquest on Tuesday: "He was just a really hard-working, loving husband and dad. He kissed me goodbye on the morning of the accident – he was just his normal self."
Mr Ward's daughter Jennifer added: "He was looking forward to getting back that night for his salsa lesson."
But the family said they were left "completely frustrated" after it emerged the driver of the lorry may not have been fully qualified at the time of the crash.
Mr Mayne lives around a mile from the crash, which happened at the central reserve opposite the Mount Ida Road between Dromore and Banbridge.
On the day of the accident, he pulled out of the road to turn northbound on the A1.
While he waited in the central reserve before he could cross, his trailer protruded almost 2ft into the outside lane of the southbound carriageway – even though he had 3ft of room left to pull forward.
Mr Mayne said he did not realise he had caused a crash until he saw the traffic around him stopping.
He added: "All I felt was a little tap."
Mr Mayne was arrested on the day of the smash on suspicion of dangerous driving.
When he was first quizzed by police, he produced only a photocopy of his licence, and told officers it had been sent away for renewal.
But authorities could not produce official documents at the inquest to prove it gave him cover to drive lorries.
Sergeant Paul Woods, who investigated the accident, admitted that more than three years on, police still had no idea if Mr Mayne was covered to drive heavy goods vehicles.
The officer told Belfast coroner's court: "We still do not know if he was covered to drive HGVs. The prosecution advised us there would be no case so we stopped pursuing that.”
Mr Mayne insisted at the hearing he was sure he was covered.
When quizzed by the Wards’ family lawyer, Steve McQuitty, he said: “I think the licence was okay to drive. I must have had an HGV.”
Mrs Ward said after the hearing: “Three years on, and police still can’t tell us if Andrew Mayne had a full licence. It’s ridiculous.
“There needs to be at least an inquiry into that.”
The DVLNI said yesterday that due to data protection they could not confirm if Mr Mayne was qualified to drive HGVs on the day of the crash.
Coroner Brian Sherrard said: “Mr Ward collided with a tractor unit of a lorry protruding 1.97ft into the outer southbound lane of the A1.
“Mr Ward’s car spun into the opposing lane where he collided with another lorry before he eventually came to a stop.
“Sadly he died from multiple injuries later that morning.”