Last straw for fatal crash driver
A SLIGHT misjudgement and a few seconds of terror have already cost Robert Michael Shun Wah his wife and his home – now it could cost him his job as well.
Shun Wah, 40, of Clayfield in Brisbane, pleaded guilty in the Lismore Local Court to a single count of negligent driving occasioning death over the crash that killed his wife, Jessica, at Iluka in January. Police facts presented to the court said Shun Wah had been driving on Iluka Road towards Iluka on January 15, with Jessica in the front passenger seat and his sisters-in-law, Amanda Ferguson and Stephanie Lee, in the back seat, when he decided to pull off the road to swap drivers.
Shun Wah later told police he misjudged the distance to the verge and lost control of the blue 2009 Ford Falcon.
Travelling about 40km/h – half the 80km/h speed limit on that section of road – the car first clipped a small tree on the front passenger door before sliding another 21 metres and crashing heavily, again on the front passenger door, into a bigger tree.
The impact was so bad the car spun 180 degrees, coming to rest five metres from the second tree. Shun Wah and Ms Ferguson, who had been sitting in the rear passenger-side seat, tried to help Jessica, who appeared badly injured. She had a big cut running from her ankle to her knee and appeared to have a broken leg and possible internal injuries.
Ms Lee was also hurt in the crash, complaining of ‘soreness' in her neck and chest.
A passing motorist called emergency services and the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was called in to fly Jessica Shun Wah to Lismore Base Hospital. She appeared to be in a stable condition, but deteriorated during the flight.
She went into cardiac arr-est at Lismore Base Hospital and was declared dead at 5.35pm. In sentencing Shun Wah, Magistrate Robyn Denes said he had lived a blameless life and had a near spotless driving record.
She also noted he had the strong support of his late wife's family, as well as his own.
The court was told theexpense of managing depression therapy had already pushed Shun Wah out of his family's home in the Brisbane suburb of Greenslopes.
Now Ms Denes was facing the prospect of having to intensify that loss further by taking his licence – something his employer had told the court would cost Shun Wah his job.
“He's lost an awful lot in his life already,” Ms Denes said. “Is it appropriate to take away his job?”
Shun Wah's lawyer, John Weller, argued it wasn't, urging Ms Denes to forego convicting his client – which would at least allow him to keep his licence and his job.
However, Ms Denes said the seriousness of the case left her little room to manoeuvre on that front. She said the need to consider the community and the need to offer a deterrent meant she had to hand down a 12-month licence suspension ‘even where it will be seen as harsh and uncaring'.
However, she ruled out any sort of prison term or fine for Shun Wah and suggested Mr Weller might consider app-ealing the severity of the sentence.
That appeal was lodged by lunchtime Friday and will be heard in the Lismore District Court on October 28.