HORROR SMASH: Rescue crews work to lift the B-double of the car after the crash at Knockrow.
HORROR SMASH: Rescue crews work to lift the B-double of the car after the crash at Knockrow. Westpac Rescue Helicopter

No jail for driver who killed two

A B-DOUBLE driver who crashed on the Pacific Hwy at Knockrow in 2013, killing a couple who "were in the wrong place at the wrong time", has escaped a jail term.

Mitchell Prest appeared in Ballina Local Court yesterday charged with negligent driving occasioning death over the June 25 crash that claimed the lives of Mitchellan Janke and his Chinese national girlfriend Sha "Sabrina" Liu.

The couple, both 28, were returning to the Gold Coast following a camping trip at Brooms Head, east of Maclean, to celebrate completing university exams.

At about 3.40pm, the B-double driven by 26-year-old Prest was travelling south when it swerved to miss a slowing car, clipped the rear of a truck and rolled onto the sedan Mr Janke and Ms Liu were in, waiting to turn north onto the highway.

Heart-wrenching victim impact statements were read by Mr Janke's father Dennis and by senior constable Mark Fogarty on behalf of the Liu family.

Emotionally, Mr Janke described his eldest son as an extremely talented and kind young man who was academically gifted.

"Our grief, our loss is immeasurable. We were a very close family," Mr Janke said.

"The shock of the day of June 25 is something that we are still struggling with and will never get over."

Mr and Mrs Liu's statement, translated from Chinese, spoke of their beautiful only child who was looking forward to marrying Mitchellan and starting a family.

Since the crash the distraught couple have been diagnosed with depression and hypertension, and worry who will care for them in their old age because of China's one-child policy.

"I believe the greatest misfortune in life is for someone to lose their only child, especially at a middle age," the statement read.

"Your leaving has taken our hearts away.

"Life without you is like a world without sunshine."

An expert crash report from Dr Robert Casey of the University of NSW, police facts and Prest's NSW and Queensland criminal histories were tendered for Magistrate Jeff Linden to consider.

Prest's barrister Peter O'Connor told the court his client had been substantially psychologically affected by the crash and lost his relationship over his "error in judgment".

Mr Linden sentenced Prest to a nine month suspended jail sentence and disqualified him from driving for 18 months.

"At the end of all the experts' reports and evidence there are just four words 'too fast, too close'," Mr Linden concluded on Prest's driving.

 

Some closure

WHILE any length penalty wouldn't have brought back Mitchellan and Sha, Dennis Janke said the sentencing of the truck driver responsible for the unfortunate tragedy has brought some closure.

Despite this sense of closure, the hearts of the Janke and Liu families will bleed forever over the loss of their loved ones.

"We have to accept the sentencing because that's what's imposed by the court," Mr Janke said.

"We would have liked a more severe sentence but going by the laws and precedents this is what we were told to expect."

"And that isn't going to bring the kids back."

Mr Janke said an examination of the truck found three of the four brakes were not connected on the prime mover and the truck had been pulled over multiple times by the RMS and defected.

"The evidence wasn't sufficient to prove a dangerous driving charge, he just made the wrong decision and as the magistrate said he was just driving too fast and too close and didn't know how to handle the situation."

"Police found the truck wasn't speeding, and the driver had no drugs or alcohol in his system."



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