IT WAS Mother’s Day 2009 and cyclist Milli O’Nair never arrived at her mum’s home for lunch.
At 10pm her mother and stepfather, Tara and Peter Leishman, had their worst fears realised when a neighbour and two police officers knocked at their door to tell them their much-loved daughter had been killed at Tyagarah when her bicycle was hit by a van.
The provisional driver of the rented van, Mina Nashed, 19, was on his return trip south to Sydney after moving his gear to Brisbane for a new job.
With only a couple of hours’ sleep over two nights, including a night out in Surfers Paradise where he drank three Bacardi rums mixed with Red Bulls, Nashed was very tired.
He admitted his van was at times drifting across into the second lane before colliding with a guard rail then striking Ms O’Nair. The impact threw her over the side of the Tyagarah rail bridge.
Nashed will spend the next two years in jail after being sentenced in the Lismore District Court yesterday afternoon by Judge James Black.
He pleaded guilty to the charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Milli O’Nair, aged 41, at 6.45am on May 10 last year.
The Crown detailed Nashed’s previous driving offences and said his level of culpability in the crash was ‘quite high’ knowing that he was having micro sleeps.
During the Crown’s cross-examination, Nashed acknowledged his previous offences showed he habitually disobeyed traffic laws.
Judge Black took into account his early guilty plea, remorse and youth, before sentencing him to three years’ jail, with a two-year non-parole period, making Nashed eligible for release in March 2012.
Judge Black said Nashed only had a two-hour sleep before leaving Surfers Paradise at 5.30am in an effort to get the rented van back to Thrifty in Parramatta by 4pm.
He said he could not agree with the argument of defence counsel Richard Waldersee that his client’s ‘micro sleeps’ began only within 10 minutes of the fatal collision.
He also disagreed with Nashed’s evidence he had nowhere to pull over and stop on that section of the highway.
Mr Waldersee said his client intended to stop at Ballina and change driver with his friend in the belief the town was only 10 minutes away.
“Given the background of this journey it is my view he should not have left the Gold Coast,” Judge Black said.
“A two-hour sleep, the consumption of alcohol, coupled with his own statement that he hadn’t slept properly since Thursday. He was not in anappropriate state to do the journey back to Sydney.”
In a very emotional outpouring of grief, Ms O’Nair’s niece, Raquel Martin, read out the victim impact statements of Milli’s mother and stepfather.
Speaking later, Ms Martin said the family bore Nashed no malice, but only wanted ‘accountability’ for the death of her auntie.
“I really hope he does learn from this. We do believe his sentence is fair,” she said.