Darren Rowe (centre) of Cougal left Lismore Court today with his parents Rod and Kay Rowe of Victoria after being found not guilty by the jury.
Darren Rowe (centre) of Cougal left Lismore Court today with his parents Rod and Kay Rowe of Victoria after being found not guilty by the jury. DAVID NIELSEN

Man found not guilty over Kombi crash

WITH a hand clasped over her mouth, Kay Rowe visibly shook with sobs of relief yesterday as the foreman of the jury returned the verdict 'not guilty' on two counts of manslaughter against her son.

As Darren James Rowe was released from the wooden defendant's box in Lismore District Court, she grabbed his hand and didn't let go.

Mr Rowe was charged with two counts of manslaughter for the death of his wife, Francesca Salvia and Currumbin truck driver Derek Anthony Waugh after a crash on Bangalow Road at Lagoon Grass, near Lismore, about 5.20am on February 7, 2004.

Ms Salvia was thrown from a VW Kombi van after the truck driven by Mr Waugh collided with the back of the van. Mr Waugh died when his truck tipped over and slid into a tree off the side of the road.

Mr Rowe was accused of stopping his white Kombi at the approach to the Lagoon Grass bridge, in the middle of the lane and in dark, foggy conditions with no lights on his van. Crown prosecutor Simon Apps had claimed during the trial this had caused the death of Ms Salvia and Mr Waugh.

Defence barrister Peter O'Connor said the incidents of that fatal morning were a terrible disaster for all involved, but it did not amount to being criminal conduct. As such Mr Rowe should be found not guilty.

The jury adjourned for a couple of hours over lunch before returning a few hours later with their verdict.

As they left the court, Mrs Rowe wrapped both arms around her son and squeezed, while husband Rod rubbed tears from his eyes. Their son was a free man.

"Let's get out of here," Mr Rowe said as he led his family out of the courtroom for the last time.

"I'm relieved it's over," he told The Northern Star. "It's been a long time."

Mr Rowe was still in a state of shock when he left the courthouse and after a couple of photographs, he crossed the street and immediately freed himself of his suit jacket and tie.

He then headed off to his car for the trip back to his home in Cougal, near Kyogle, to 'chill out' and celebrate with his parents.

Mr Rowe thanked his defence team for all their support during his ordeal and couldn't wait to call the rest of his family in Victoria with the good news.

The family of the truck driver, Mr Waugh, appeared upset at the verdict, but left the court without comment.


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