New year but questions remain after fatal crash

Damien Karwaj's Ford Falcon at the crash scene at Marsden Park.
Damien Karwaj's Ford Falcon at the crash scene at Marsden Park.

DAMIEN Karwaj's last meal with his family was Christmas lunch. Surrounded by his mother, twin sister, grandmother, cousins, brother-in-law and 14-month-old nephew, Joshua, he feasted on ham and potato salad left over from their lavish Christmas Eve get together.

It is a bitter-sweet memory for his twin, Danielle Lewin, who received a knock on the door from police the next morning.

"It still doesn't feel real," she said. "I guess I don't want to believe it, we all still feel numb."

Mr Karwaj, the 27-year-old dedicated Rural Fire Service volunteer was driving to work early that morning when a learner driver allegedly careered through a give way sign at an intersection on Richmond Road in Marsden Park. It was the third fatal crash on that stretch of road in four months.

On Friday, exactly one month after the tragic incident, police said that the 24 year-old man was not only an unaccompanied learner driver but he was also driving a stolen car and under the influence of alcohol.

Seven charges have been laid including dangerous driving occasioning death.

The Lithgow man suffered some head injuries but is now walking again, and on bail until a court appearance next month.

Mr Karwaj's family, however, have lost their son and brother forever.

"You just keep asking yourself 'why'?" Mrs Lewin said. "Damo and I had our days as brother and sister but deep down we knew if anything happened to the other one, we would be shattered. And that's exactly how I feel."

Mr Karwaj took every shift he could as a volunteer for the Horsley Park Rural Fire Service Brigade. He had previously manned radios at the communications branch and was ramping up for what would become one of the state's worst bushfire seasons.

The Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, said he was the kind of young person we can't afford to lose.

"Having met Damien myself, he epitomised the RFS volunteer spirit and all that is good in human nature, gaining qualifications in everything he could, attending incidents whenever available and often doing after-hours radio and calls for the district," he said. "He was so dedicated to his family, the RFS and serving the community."

It was Mr Karwaj's colleagues from the Marsden Park and Schofields brigades that attended the horrific scene and identified their mate and his brand new green Ford Falcon.

Since then, the Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, has assured the state that a fast-tracked upgrade of Richmond Road, due to start at the end of last year, was still on course. Burton Contractors are finalising design preparation and the program of work to begin this year.

"Damo was one of those guys that just loved life," Mrs Lewin said of her brother, whose cerebral palsy didn't stop him from building a successful career. "It didn't matter what obstacle was put in his way, he overcame it."

This story New year but questions remain after fatal crash first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.