GRIFFITH Street, Coolangatta, where an elderly woman was hit by a drunk driver.
GRIFFITH Street, Coolangatta, where an elderly woman was hit by a drunk driver.

Drink driver hits elderly woman

AN elderly woman was lucky to be alive after she was struck by a drunk driver while using a Griffith Street pedestrian crossing.

The Coolangatta Magistrate Court heard that Brett John Cerchi was paying more attention to the passengers in his car than he was to the road and failed to see 83-year-old Yvonne Whitford until it was too late, the court was told.

Mrs Whitford miraculously escaped with minor injuries after she went up over the bonnet of his Mitsubishi Magna at 2.30pm on March 4.

Cerchi, 23, yesterday pleaded guilty to drink-driving and driving without due care and attention.

Police prosecutor senior constable Jeff Mills told the court that when police attended the crash scene and breath-tested Cerchi he had a blood-alcohol concentration of .084 per cent.

The elderly woman was treated by Queensland Ambulance officers before being taken to the Tweed Heads Hospital, where she stayed overnight for obser- vation.

According to Snr Cnst Mills, Cerchi told police he had been talking to people in his car and admitted he had not been paying attention to the road.

He did not see the woman until it was too late.

He hit the brakes but he could not avoid running the woman down.

Cerchi told the court he had been completely stupid and would never do it again.

“Hitting an old lady is not a good feeling,” the Mermaid Beach man said.

“I did go straight from the police station to the hospital to check up on her.”

Magistrate John Castanzo said Cerchi had four previous convictions for public nuisance, one for drunk and disorderly conduct and another for malicious damage, and asked whether the young man had a drinking problem.

“Not that I am aware of,” Cerchi said, adding he would be moving to Wagga Wagga to live with his father in an effort to correct the problems he was having.

Mr Castanzo said drivers always needed to be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially around traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.

“If a person can't walk safely across a pedestrian crossing one has to wonder where can they walk across the road safely,” he said.

“It is not through your good management, but through sheer good luck, that the lady wasn't more seriously injured.”

The magistrate said Cerchi had shown empathy for the woman, admitted culpability and was co-operative with police, having made full admissions.

For drink-driving, Cerchi was fined $650 and disqualified from driving for four months.

For driving without due care and attention he was fined $1200 and disqualified for six months. The driving disqualifications will be served concurrently.

Outside court the victim's husband, Bob Whitford, told the Tweed Daily News it was lucky his wife had curled herself into a ball as she hit the bonnet of the car and avoided any serious injuries.

“It is pretty sad when you can't trust a pedestrian crossing,” Mr Whitford said.

He said she had bruises on her arm and legs, a bad split between her fingers and a wound on her foot.

“They appear to be healing, but slowly,” Mr Whitford said.

“She was very lucky to get out of it without bones broken.”

“My wife doesn't want him crucified, she just wants to see an adequate sentence that might frighten the bugger,” he said.

When told of the sentence, Mr Whitford said: “It seems a bit light on .... but I suppose that is what you would expect.”

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