A MOTORIST who drove from Cumbria to Newcastle after working a night-shift in a hotel caused a head-on crash after nodding off at the wheel of his car.

At district judge at Carlisle’s Rickergate court said it was a 'miracle' nobody died in the dramatic collision on the A66, one of the county's busiest roads.

It happened as 43-year-old Zoltan Toth was driving drove back to Cumbria.

He had been to Newcastle for a job interview, having driven there straight after an overnight shift as a porter at a Lake District hotel.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty to an allegation of dangerous driving. But he was convicted after an hour-long trial at Carlisle Magistrates' Court. Toth failed to turn up for the hearing.

Prosecutor Peter Kelly outlined how Toth was driving on the A66 east of Kirkby Thore when other drivers noticed his car drifting out of its lane.

At one point, Toth’s silver Ford Fiesta was seen veering over a double white line, connecting briefly with an oncoming lorry. In the following seconds, the car was seen weaving across the road as the defendant fought to regain control before the Fiesta again crossed to the wrong side of the road.

The Fiesta then collided head-on with an oncoming car before crashing into a wall and flipping over.

Toth walked away from the crash but two retired people – a man and a woman – who were in the second car involved had to be helped to safety and were treated by an off-duty paramedic who was passing the scene.

Lorry driver Martin Hodgson, whose dashcam footage of the accident was shown to the court, said that when the Fiesta initially crossed the solid white lines it only 'just missed' the oncoming HGV.

The driver of the car which the Fiesta collided had slammed on her brakes, said Mr Hodgson, adding: "But he just came from nowhere.”

Mr Hodgson rushed to the crashed cars to help, finding the driver of the second car that was involved gasping for breath in front of his activated airbags.

Describing Toth, he said: “He crawled out of his car, which was upside down.

"He was shocked and pale. He said he'd just worked a double shift.”

The witness said Toth had reported speaking to his brother, who had warned him not to fall asleep at the wheel. Another driver who saw what happened was Mark Murray.

He too had been driving on the A66 that day. He described Toth’s driving as 'erratic', his car at times veering across the road before the defendant corrected his steering. “I increased the distance of my car from his,” said Mr Murray.

After seeing the crash, he too got out of his car to help. Mr Murray told the court that he heard Toth say: “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault. I fell asleep at the wheel.”

The witness said Toth told him he had been to Newcastle to have an interview for a driving job after working the night before as a hotel porter in the Lake District. “He said he’d been working overnight and was short of sleep,” said Mr Murray.

The court heard that in his police interview, Toth confirmed that he had completed a night shift as a hotel porter the previous evening and then, the following morning after finishing work, he had driven to Newcastle for the job interview.

“He said he felt fine to drive,” said Mr Kelly. As he drove towards Penrith, he lost control of the Fiesta for a second or two but then regained consciousness. Realising half of his car was off the road, he attempted to correct its course but then the car wobbled, and he lost control.

“He admitted losing consciousness because of tiredness,” added Mr Kelly.

Deputy District Judge Imran Hussain found the defendant guilty of dangerous driving, saying that he accepted the evidence of both prosecution witnesses and noting the admissions made by the defendant himself during his police interview.

“It was a miracle nobody was killed,” commented the judge. He issued a warrant for Toth's arrest.

The defendant, who has no address recorded in court papers, will be sentenced at a date which is yet to be agreed.