THE driver killed in an horrific pile-up on a major North East road was named last night as a serving police officer.
Neil Gartland, 38, was killed in a 31-vehicle series of collisions in thick fog on the A19 in County Durham late on Friday night.
PC Gartland, who was from the Sunderland area, had served with Northumbria Police for eight years. He was a frontline officer in South Tyneside.
Chief Superintendent Mark Dennett, of the South Tyneside area command, said: “Neil was an outstanding police officer and totally dedicated to serving the public, so much so he recently fought his way back from injury to continue working as a frontline cop.
“Neil was immensely popular with all of his colleagues, both in South Tyneside, and throughout the force. Everyone who knew Neil will miss him greatly.
“My heartfelt sympathies and those of all the staff at South Tyneside area command lie with Neil’s wife and family.”
Police are still investigating the series of smashes which claimed Mr Gartland’s life. The collisions involved two tankers and two 38-tonne HGVs. At least 10 other motorists and passengers suffered injuries.
A 47-year-old man suffered stomach and shoulder injuries, while a 50-year-old had head injuries.
Firefighters described a scene of “absolute devastation” after the three accidents on a section of the dual carriageway near Peterlee.
In the first, most serious accident – in which Mr Gartland was killed – two petrol tankers, two HGVs and a car crashed on the southbound carriageway at 10.15pm.
It is understood a Renault car was crushed between two petrol tankers as the three vehicles travelled in a line.
It was initially reported that both of the tankers were leaking fuel, and fire crews covered them in foam as a precaution.
As police were responding to that crash, a second series of collisions took place on the northbound carriageway directly opposite, when several vehicles crashed into the back of each other.
A spokesman for Durham Police said there was dense fog in the area at the time and described the driving conditions as “treacherous”.
A third accident then took place on the Wellfield sliproad involving three vehicles, one of which was a Vauxhall Astra police car carrying out traffic management duties
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Durham Constabulary collision unit on 0345 60 60 365.
Meanwhile a woman died after her car left the road in the early hours of yesterday.
The 37-year-old, who has not been named, was driving a Peugeot 406 Coupe eastbound along the A689 between Sedgefield and Wynyard.
Her car left the road, crossing the central reservation before coming to rest in a field. She died at the scene.
The incident happened at around 1.30am.
Witnesses are asked to contact the Road Policing Unit on 01642-301552.