A SPEEDING driver told police an unknown furry animal distracted him moments before his car became airborne and caught fire.
Noel Eastwood, 55, of Jolly Street, Hamilton, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court this week to careless driving and exceeding the prescribed concentration of drugs while driving.
On March 9 at 12.30am Eastwood was driving his Hyundai Excel south on the Hamilton-Port Fairy Road.
The court heard that as he approached a sweeping left-hand bend at high speed Eastwood lost control and cannoned into an embankment.
The car became airborne, cleared a fence and rolled a number of times before it ended up on its roof.
Police said the car travelled more than 30 metres from where it left the road and then caught fire.
It was not known whether Eastwood was thrown from the car or he was able to get himself out.
He was taken to The Alfred hospital with head injuries.
The major collision investigation unit attended the scene and established Eastwood had been doing 136km/h when he first lost control.
When interviewed by police Eastwood said prior to the accident he saw a furry animal which he’d never seen before but he did not swerve to miss it.
Asked by police if it was careless driving, Eastwood replied: “The animal was careless.”
Defence counsel Xavier Farrelly said his client had been involved in a motorbike accident in the early 1980s and since then had been unable to work full-time.
He said Eastwood had mental health issues. He had done odd jobs and some minor construction work and had difficulties walking as a result of the motorbike accident.
When sentencing, magistrate Jonathan Klestadt said Eastwood was simply travelling too fast for the conditions.
He said the small reading of cannabis was probably a result of drug-taking possibly weeks before the crash.
He said Eastwood was very lucky to avoid death or a more serious injury.
Eastwood was convicted and fined $750 for careless driving, fined $250 for failing a blood drug test and disqualified from driving for six months.