Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe.
Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe.

‘Outgoing, kindhearted, honest’ boy’s death haunts mum

Taylen Swanson should have been at school on Friday, running around the playground and enjoying the sunshine after this week's rain.

Instead, his mother sat clutching to one of his toys with tears streaming down her face as the woman responsible for his death, and injuries to others, was sentenced in court.

Michelle Lee Newton, 30, sobbed as she pleaded guilty on Friday in Rockhampton District Court to one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing the death of Taylen and grievous bodily harm to Kel Williams and Nik Kilpatrick, along with one count each of drug-driving while being a provisional licence holder and possessing a dangerous drug.

Michelle Lee Newton, 30, leaves Rockhampton courthouse on March 19, 2021, after being sentenced to 3.5 years prison, wholly suspended.
Michelle Lee Newton, 30, leaves Rockhampton courthouse on March 19, 2021, after being sentenced to 3.5 years prison, wholly suspended.

 

Newton had been to Mount Morgan riding horses on the morning of September 18, 2016.

She left for Rockhampton about midday, but never made it.

Crown prosecutor Tiffany Lawrence said Newton's Holden sedan came out of a "sweeping left bend" corner on the Burnett Highway near Bouldercombe at 80km/hr and veered across the road into the path of the four-wheel drive Ms Williams was driving.

The crash which occurred along the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe.
The crash which occurred along the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe.

 

 

"Ms Williams could not do anything to avoid being hit by the defendant," she said.

Ms Williams can still recall seeing Newton's face before the head-on collision, along with the smells and sounds that came afterwards.

Both Ms Williams and Ms Kilpatrick were able to get themselves out of the car, while bystanders tended to Taylen.

"Taylen... required immediate CPR," Ms Lawrence said.

He was taken to hospital and died from a brain injury two days later.

Newton was trapped in her vehicle with emergency services having to get her out.

She had fractures to her face, arms, legs, ribs and pelvis as well as a traumatic brain injury.

Newton had small amounts of amphetamine, methamphetamine and marijuana in her system and the Crown did not allege the drugs contributed to the crash, rather it was caused by Newton's inattention.

Ms Williams suffered a perforation to her bowels which required surgery, other abdominal injuries and a fractured ankle.

Ms Kilpatrick suffered fractures to her breast bones, sprained ankle and ligaments, bulging discs in her lower back and injury to her right wrist.

Both Ms Williams and Ms Kilpatrick were in court for the sentencing, along with other family members impacted by the tragic crash.

Judge Jennifer Rosengren said this was "a very, very sad situation".

"The tragedy that flows from this is nothing short of extreme," she said.

Ms Williams said in her impact statement which was read to the court: "Taylen had autism and was the most outgoing, kind-hearted, strong, honest, full of noise boys you'd ever meet. So to see our son laying there with tubes coming out of him everywhere, knowing that we had to say goodbye to him made me so angry, upset and emotions I cannot even explain.

Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente
Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente

 

 

"Then to have to turn to Zeith, who was six-years-old at the time, and try to explain that his little brother will no longer be with us anymore.

"The look on Zeith's face still plays in my mind.

"I still get mental images of the accident.

"My body aches. I get migraines. A lot of back and hip throbs. My dreams are scary. And heartache knowing my son will never be with us again has killed the part of me that I can and will never get back.

"But most of all, my son Zeith struggles every day. He has nightmares ... He is scared about dying. He asks questions like 'when will Taylen be coming back', 'can I see him?', 'I miss him', 'can I be with Taylen?, 'I don't want to die', questions about reincarnation and death.

"The struggle we have is hard to put to words. We are both angry, sad, emotional, empty, scared, lonely, frustrated, blank and heartbroken."

 

Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente
Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente

 

Ms Lawrence argued Newton should receive an absolute disqualification, rather than the legislated minimum of 12 months, due to her traffic record which included a drug-drive conviction eight months prior to the crash.

The court heard Newton was in hospital in Brisbane for five months following the accident.

Since the accident 4.5 years ago, she has not reoffended.

Newton started smoking marijuana when she was 17 and meth when she was 20.

She also had mental health issues linked to trauma in her teenage years.

Newton volunteers at Riding for the Disabled every weekend and works 20-hours a week at Callaghan Park, despite still being in pain from the injuries she sustained from the crash.

Defence barrister Joseph Briggs said Newton's medical issues from the crash, according to experts, would only get worse as time goes on.

Newton was supported by her mother and sister in court.

Judge Rosengren said Ms Kilpatrick still suffers from physical pain including in her back and thigh.

She said the victim had to defer her university studies for a year after the accident and her career as an environmental scientist has been impacted by flare-ups of pain.

Judge Rosengren said all three surviving victims talked of ongoing mental health impacts.

She said Taylen's father, Russell Swanson, talked of losing "the love of his life" and not being able to watch Taylen grow up and reach milestones.

Taylen Swanson died two days after he was in a car crash with his mother and older brother on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe on September 18, 2016. His parents took him off life support on September 20 after doctors advised he would not survive. He was four-years-old.
Taylen Swanson died two days after he was in a car crash with his mother and older brother on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe on September 18, 2016. His parents took him off life support on September 20 after doctors advised he would not survive. He was four-years-old.

 

"It's something a family never recovers from," Judge Rosengren said of losing a loved one in such circumstances.

She referred to a note Newton wrote about the accident which said Newton wished she could give both families a reason for what happened that day, but she couldn't.

Judge Rosengren said Newton also wrote she would forever think of Taylen and his family and the pain she had caused them.

Newton's criminal record involved a conviction in 2009 for robbery where she was sentenced to 18-months' prison and spent actual time in custody.

Judge Rosengren sentenced Newton to 3.5 years prison, wholly suspended and operational for five years. She also disqualified her from driving absolutely - meaning she can apply to the court in two years' time to have the absolute disqualification lifted.

Ms Williams told The Morning Bulletin after the sentence she did not feel justice had been served for Taylen's death as the at-fault driver walked out of court "scot-free" and "can do her life getting tattoos, work, ride horses, yet our family lost my baby".

Kel Williams (centre) leaves Rockhampton courthouse
Kel Williams (centre) leaves Rockhampton courthouse

 

"Where is the justice for Taylen? Life may go on we grieve day in, day out. How do you explain to his 10-year-old brother that nothing was done for his baby brother?" she said.

 

Ms Williams's impact statement was read out by Ms Lawrence:

"On September 18, 2016, myself, my two boys and my friend were involved in a severe car accident.

"We were driving up to Mount Morgan but didn't make it past Bouldercombe when Michelle Newton drove on the wrong side of the road and hit us head-on at 80km/hr.

"I can still see her face seconds before hitting us, and the noise and smell of it all.

"But the one thing that will haunt me is looking into the back seats, seeing ... Taylen, he was leaning towards the middle of the seat with no movement and loss of colour. I knew something was wrong with him.

Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente
Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente

 

"As I got out, I collapsed from pain on the right side of my body and my right ankle.

"I could hear a lady asking if anyone knew CPR to do on my four-year-old boy Taylen.

"Then telling me Taylen is on life support and won't make it and that I had to make decisions that I didn't know how to.

"I went into surgery. Hours later, which was now September 20, I called my family into Taylen's room and got doctors to talk to all of us about Taylen's condition - just to tell us that he was not going to make it and he would be on life support for the rest of his life.

"I turned to Russell (Taylen's father) as I held Taylen's and Zeith's hands and said 'turn the life support off'.

"Russell's hand was on my shoulder and supported this huge decision 100%.

"Taylen had autism and was the most outgoing, kind-hearted, strong, honest, full of noise boys you'd ever meet. So to see our son laying there with tubes coming out of him everywhere, knowing that we had to say goodbye to him made me so angry, upset and emotions I cannot even explain.

 

Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente
Taylen Swanson was four-years-old when he died from head injuries sustained in a car crash caused by Michelle Newton's inattention which resulted her vehicle veering onto the incorrect side of the road and crashing head-on into Taylen's mother's car on September 18, 2016, on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe. Taylen's mother Kel Williams supplied photos of her beloved son after Newton was sente

 

"Then to have to turn to Zeith, who was six-years-old at the time, and try to explain that his little brother will no longer be with us anymore.

"The look on Zeith's face still plays in my mind.

"No mother should have to lose a young child and have to explain it to their other child at that age.

"I got out of hospital two weeks later due to surgery of the lower bowel rupture, rips inside my belly, whip lash, of catching pneumonia, fracture in my ankle and aches and pains throughout my body.

"Once out, I started therapy for Zeith and I. Then it was never ending x-ray, scans, appointments, physio and therapy while trying to organise the funeral for Taylen.

"How is a mum supposed to do all this and keep a strong appearance for a six-year-old?

"After Taylen's funeral, I had to make the difficult decision to move away from our home that three of us created - myself, Zeith and Taylen - and to move to Brisbane to get surgery done due to the fracture in my right ankle.

"I still get mental images of the accident.

"My body aches. I get migraines. A lot of back and hip throbs. My dreams are scary. And heartache knowing my son will never be with us again has killed the part of me that I can and will never get back.

"But most of all, my son Zeith struggles every day. He has nightmares ... He is scared about dying. He asks questions like 'when will Taylen be coming back', 'can I see him?', 'I miss him', 'can I be with Taylen?', 'I don't want to die', questions about reincarnation and death.

"The struggle we have is hard to put to words. We are both angry, sad, emotional, empty, scared, lonely, frustrated, blank and heartbroken.

"How are we supposed to live knowing that this is ok? Because it's not. This is not right. It is wrong.

"We didn't ask for Michelle Newton to drive on the wrong side of the road and hit us at 80km/hr, taking my son and Zeith's brother from us.

"Zeith and I now have to live a lifetime sentence of not having a son, brother and best friend in our life. Just memories."



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