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Echuca woman expected to stand trial over Kialla West fatal collision

By Liz Mellino

An Echuca woman faced Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday after a fatal collision in Kialla West last year that killed her partner.

Amber Peers, who was 26 at the time, is facing five charges, including culpable driving causing death, following the incident on the Goulburn Valley Hwy on July 21.

Police allege the collision occurred when a Holden Commodore sedan attempted to overtake a B-double truck at "high speed" before braking heavily, skidding and impacting a tree on the side of the road.

Rowan Penberthy, 30, who was seated in the front passenger seat at the time, died at the scene.

In a summary tendered to the court during Wednesday's half-day committal hearing, police allege Ms Peers was driving an orange Holden Commodore sedan when she attempted to overtake the truck before realising she would not be able to do so.

“Peers braked heavily and skidded for approximately 50 metres ... (she) lost control of the Holden and it veered across the northbound lane and off the road to the west,” the summary said.

“The Holden clipped a formed concrete drain at the edge of a driveway and the passenger side of the vehicle impacted a large tree — the vehicle rolled before coming to rest against wire fencing.”

Five witnesses were called to testify during Wednesday's hearing, including Tony Blizzard, the driver of the B-double truck.

Mr Blizzard told the court he witnessed the orange sedan lock its wheels before white smoke spread from the tyres.

“I seen (the vehicle) lock up in the right-hand mirror, all four wheels locked up — I came across and saw her shoot across to the right-hand side (of the road) and lost sight of her in the mirrors,” he said.

“There was smoke coming from all four wheels.”

The court heard the truck was travelling south from Shepparton towards Melbourne in the left lane at the time while the orange sedan was travelling in the right overtaking lane.

Mr Blizzard testified that he had indicated to merge back into the right lane about 300 m before the two lanes merged into one.

“It's like she thought she noticed the indicator and thought I'm not going to make it,” he said.

“I spoke to another driver around 9.30 am the next morning — they said there was a fatality in Shepparton and I assumed it might be the one I saw go off the side of the road.”

Another witness, Wendy Hutcheson, a nurse who was travelling along the Goulburn Valley Hwy behind the truck at the time, said she believed the orange sedan was "going to go underneath the truck".

“Until I saw the smoke I thought she was going to hit the truck ... I saw the smoke, the car was sideways and it looked like it had flicked across the road and I thought it had gone down a driveway,” she said.

“I was watching the oncoming traffic and the truck, it all happened so quickly.”

The court also heard from Detective Sergeant Robert Hay from the Collision Reconstruction Unit, who said his findings detailed that the ABS system was faulty on the vehicle driven by Ms Peers.

Det Sgt Hay said there was no indication that a collision had occurred between the vehicle and truck, telling the court there was a straight and a curved skid mark on the road, which he said were due to the "driver's input".

“The driver attempted to steer right and the curve the driver wished to follow is beyond the capability of the car ... and that creates the yaw,” he said.

Ms Peers’ defence lawyer, Markorius Habib, questioned a number of the witnesses at length before his client entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.

Magistrate Peter Mithen said he was satisfied there was enough evidence in the case, committing Ms Peers to stand trial.

The case returns to the Shepparton County Court next month.

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