Passenger says she warned driver before fatal collision with cyclist

THE passenger in a car involved in a fatal Warrnambool collision almost two years ago yesterday told how she called out to the driver to make him aware of a cyclist.

Jessica Cherrett was giving evidence in Warrnambool Magistrates Court at a committal hearing involving her former boyfriend.

Eamonn Francis Leddin, 21, of Panmure, has been charged with culpable driving causing death.

He was the driver involved in a collision which resulted in the death of a cyclist on Hopkins Point Road.

Warrnambool mother-of-four Janet Baldam, 47, died on April 7, 2011, after being struck from behind by a red Mazda coupe as she was riding west on Hopkins Point Road.

Ms Cherrett told the committal hearing she saw the cyclist about a kilometre ahead after rounding a curve.

She said she called out “Eamonn” about five seconds before the collision to bring the driver’s attention to the cyclist, who was about 30cm inside the road edge.

“I didn’t get a response,” Ms Cherrett said. In her statement, Ms Cherrett said when the vehicle got within about 100m of the cyclist she thought Mr Leddin would move around the cyclist but he didn’t.

“I noticed the cyclist was a woman. I said ‘Eamonn’ quite firmly to get him to go around, we were pretty close,” she said.

“He said ‘oh shit’ before impact and I yelled again on impact. The brakes came on very soon but it seemed to take a long time. They were applied just before impact. We slowed down a lot after impact.”

Ms Cherrett said she called out to get Mr Leddin’s attention because she thought their vehicle  was going to hit the cyclist if he did not move the car over.

She said the cyclist was wearing a bright pink top.

The court heard Ms Cherrett and Mr Leddin went to a Riverdance concert in Melbourne the night before, stayed in the city and travelled back to Mr Leddin’s family home at Panmure before heading to Warrnambool along the Hopkins Point Road.

They drove from Warrnambool to Geelong, caught the train to Melbourne for the concert and returned on the train to Geelong the next morning before driving home.

Under cross-examination from counsel Anthony Lavery, for Mr Leddin, Ms Cherrett said there were aspects of Mr Leddin’s driving from Warrnambool to Geelong which bothered her.

She said Mr Leddin was coming up close to vehicles before overtaking them and that happened four or five times.

The court also heard from sleep deprivation experts about the impact of lack of sleep on drivers.

In a record of interview with police officers, Mr Leddin said he “woke up” just before impact with the cyclist.

Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine senior forensic physician Morris Odell said it was impossible for him to provide an unequivocal opinion about whether sleep deprivation caused the accident on the information provided.

He said being severely sleep deprived could lead to micro sleeps of 10, 20 or 30 seconds.

Magistrate Jonathan Klestadt committed Mr Leddin to stand trial in the Warrnambool County Court.

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