Driver in fatal crash during hail storm spared jail

No jail time: A woman who was the driver of a car that crashed, killing her sister and brother-in-law and seriously injuring her daughter, has pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court. Photo by AAP Photo

A woman who was the driver of a car that crashed near Wunghnu, killing her sister and brother-in-law and seriously injuring her young daughter, has avoided jail.

Amberly Jane Hendy, 31, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to two counts of dangerous driving causing death and one of dangerous driving causing serious injury.

The court heard Hendy, her sister Eloise Rigby, her sister’s partner Adam Boland and Hendy’s then four-year-old daughter were driving from Mr Boland’s Shepparton home to her house in Katandra when the crash occurred on the Goulburn Valley Hwy about one kilometre from Wunghnu on September 6, 2019.

Hendy, who was aged 28 at the time, was behind the wheel of Mr Boland’s Holden Calais when she attempted to brake during a hail storm, lost control of the car and slid across the road into a car being driven in the south-bound lane.

Mr Boland, 39, and Ms Rigby, 23, died, while Hendy’s daughter had to be resuscitated at the scene.

The court heard Ms Hendy knew that one of the tyres on the car was bald at the time and that she had taken the cruise control off during heavy rain and had tried to brake more at the time of the accident.

Analysis at the accident scene showed that the car that collided with Hendy’s was travelling at 50km/h at the time of the crash and Hendy was doing between 39 and 53km/h.

Prosecutor Erin Ramsay told the court Hendy had cannabis in her system when she was tested in the hours after the accident, and she told police at the scene she had smoked four bongs with a mixture of cannabis and tobacco that day.

Hendy had 12 nanograms per millilitre of drugs in her system, Ms Ramsay said.

Judge Elizabeth Gaynor said that at the scene Hendy did not appear drug affected.

“I know she was not speeding, she slowed down, it was a car with an incredibly bald tyre and an extreme weather condition,” Judge Gaynor said.

“It’s hard to know … if she hadn’t had THC (cannabis) in her blood, maybe this would have happened anyway because of the bad tyre.”

A victim impact statement from Mr Boland’s mother read to the court said that she missed not only her son and his partner, but also Hendy and her daughter.

“I truly believe Amberly would feel every day the loss of her sister, her mate Adam and the injury to her daughter,” Ms Boland said.

Hendy’s barrister John Kelly said it was a “tragic” case and Hendy had been very close with her sister, and that she still had a relationship with the Boland family.

He said Hendy had not expected to be driving that day, but was “pressed to” because Mr Boland had recently had carpal tunnel surgery and was still feeling the effects of it.

“There is no suggestion she was driving anything but appropriately,” Mr Kelly said.

“The hail was intense and sudden.”

Mr Kelly also told the court as a result of the accident, Hendy’s daughter had a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as separation anxiety disorder — with difficulties in being separated from her mother.

He also said experts said the girl was at “high risk of deterioration if her mother was incarcerated”.

Judge Gaynor agreed, saying that the impact jailing her mother would have on the little girl was cause for Hendy not to be jailed.

While Hendy will not be sentenced until late next week, Judge Gaynor told her she would not be jailing her and ordered a community corrections assessment on Hendy be completed.