A TRUCKER accused of falling asleep at the wheel and causing a fatal crash was suffering from a serious sleep condition at the time, a court heard.

Arthur Page was diagnosed with sleep apnoea following the accident on the A1 in North Yorkshire which claimed the life of Wayne Howen.

However giving evidence in his trial at Teesside Crown Court, the 59-year-old denied feeling tired, and had only opened the window in his cab because he liked to let some fresh air circulate.

Mr Page's lorry hit the rear of an articulated tractor unit, belonging to Mr Howen, after the victim was forced to stop in the left hand lane of the carriageway as his vehicle was listing and had two badly damaged tyres, having also been in an accident minutes earlier.

The vehicle, described as being “lit up like a Christmas tree”, was struck by Mr Page and jack-knifed, crushing Mr Howen, from Ingleby Barwick, near Stockton, who was waving a torch and attempting to direct traffic away.

Mr Page, a former paramedic, admitted he could doze off easily whether on a break or while watching television.

He said his life had “changed completely” after being diagnosed and successfully treated for sleep apnoea – a condition which causes sufferers to stop breathing while they sleep.

Jonny Walker, prosecuting, said as a HGV driver with “grave responsibility” for other road users he should have been aware of the risks of not sleeping properly and suggested he had been irresponsible in not seeking help and notifying the authorities of his condition earlier.

However Mr Page, from Worlaby, Lincolnshire, said he was not aware of the symptoms of sleep apnoea until he was diagnosed.

He added: “I don't know if it [the accident] was my fault or down to the medical condition I had at the time.”

Mr Walker said Mr Page was accountable for Mr Howen's death through his lack of attention to the road and had he exercised better judgement the victim would be alive today.

Earlier the defendant described the moment of impact, having said he could only recall the few seconds before the accident near the Kirkby Fleetham turnoff, between Bedale and Catterick.

He said: “I was swerving, braking and then 'bang'. I shut my eyes and heard the ripping and tearing of metal.”

Mr Page, who suffered a punctured lung and broken leg and ankle, added: “I remember thinking why am I still here? Why aren't I dead?”

Mr Page denies causing death by dangerous driving on September 12 2012 and the trial continues.