Driver denies lying to police after horror crash

A MAN accused of causing an accident in which his wife and a truck driver were killed has taken the stand to defend his actions.

Crown prosecutor Simon Apps launched questions at Darren James Rowe in the Lismore District Court yesterday afternoon.

Rowe has pleaded not guilty to two counts of manslaughter.

The charges relate to a crash involving a semi-trailer and the VW Kombi van he was driving along Bangalow Road at Lagoon Grass, near Lismore, on February 7, 2004.

As a result of the crash, Currumbin truck driver Derek Anthony Waugh and Rowe's wife, Francesca Salvia, were killed.

During the cross examination, Mr Apps accused Rowe of stopping his Kombi van in the middle of the lane, leaving Mr Waugh no choice but to hit the van because another semi-trailer was approaching the Lagoon Grass bridge in the opposite lane.

Rowe denied the allegation. He said he believed the van was as far off the road as he could safely get without falling into a ditch and that he felt he didn't have any other option.

Rowe said the van was parked 'at least half on the grass'.

Mr Apps accused Rowe of lying to the police in his initial interview the day after the crash.

He suggested Rowe lied to cover up for his negligence when he said weather conditions at the time were 'quite clear actually'.

Rowe denied this, saying it was how he perceived the weather at that time.

Rowe also confirmed his lights were on at the time of the accident, despite witness reports suggesting the lights were not on.

Mr Apps asked why Rowe hadn't turned on the van's hazard lights, to which Rowe replied that he hadn't perceived the situation to be hazardous.

Mr Apps said even if Rowe's version of events were true, and the Kombi was half on the grass, there would not have been enough room for a semi-trailer to pass the van safely.

Rowe said he believed there was plenty of room for a semi-trailer to pass the Kombi.

In other evidence yesterday, there was also the issue of a missing log book from Mr Waugh's truck.

Mr Waugh's employer, Rutley's Freight Lines, was ordered to produce a copy of the log book for the defence, but the court was told it had been destroyed in a flood in February 2005.

The log book may have contained details of Mr Waugh's journey up to the point of the crash.

Investigating officer Snr Const Craig Norton said he could only produce a copy of the log book entry for the day before the crash as that was all that had been left in the case file.

Snr Const Norton inherited Rowe's case from Snr Const Stuart Turner, who is now on sick leave and is not expected to return to duty.

In a committal hearing in November last year, Snr Const Turner gave evidence that he could not find the original log book from Mr Waugh's semi-trailer for the day of the crash.

The trial continues today.


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