Father faces court over dangerous driving after daughter dies in truck crash | Warrnambool court

Robin Ian Jones, 38, indicated he would plead guilty to dangerous driving causing death, appearing in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Robin Ian Jones, 38, indicated he would plead guilty to dangerous driving causing death, appearing in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

A FATHER who rolled a sheep truck near Coleraine, killing his nine-year-old daughter, has indicated he will plead guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

Robin Ian Jones, 38, appeared in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Jones, formerly of Murray Bridge, was driving the B double truck when it rolled off the Glenelg Highway in November 2012.

Crown prosecutor Ruth Champion withdrew other charges against Jones, including a count of culpable driving.

Defence counsel Stephen Payne made a submission that the case be heard in the magistrates court and not be uplifted to the county court where a heavier penalty could be imposed.

Ms Champion read a police summary of the evidence in opposing that application.

Police alleged that at 2.50pm on November 27, 2012, there was a fatal crash along the Glenelg Highway at Muntham, 45 kilometres east of the South Australian border.

Jones, an experienced truck driver, was travelling down a steep descent with his wife in the cabin and two daughters, aged nine and six, in the sleeping compartment. No one in the truck was restrained or wearing a seatbelt.

The court was told Jones had been a truck driver since he was 17 and had driven B doubles for 15 years. He owned the Western Star truck that was transporting 630 sheep in triple decks on the day of the crash.

The family travelled from Murray Bridge to Naracoorte at 6am that morning, loaded gear into the truck, had some tyres replaced and then loaded sheep at Lucindale before leaving for a Victorian meatworks at about 12.30pm.

The family stopped for lunch at Casterton before resuming their trip along the highway where there are a number of curves, before a significant downhill gradient and a sweeping right bend.

As the truck approached the turn, it failed to take the bend, crashed through a guard rail and rolled down a left-hand embankment.

Tara was ejected from the cabin and was killed in the crash while Jones' injured wife was flown to The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne with a number of injuries. The youngest daughter, Josie, and Jones suffered minor injuries.

A large number of sheep were injured and had to be put down.

Jones tested negative to drugs and alcohol.

A reconstruction by a police expert indicated the truck was travelling at 111 km/h in the 100 km/h zone when it began to lose control about 162 metres before careering through the guard rail.

When interviewed soon after the accident, Jones told police there was no reason the truck rolled.

He said he knew his daughters were unrestrained, and he had previously contemplated putting in place netting to ensure their safety in the sleeping section, but had never got around to it.

Jones claimed he was driving well under the speed limit and the police officer noted that Jones was clearly suffering enormous personal trauma.

Ms Champion said the very experienced Jones had been speeding down a hill with a huge load, with no one in the vehicle restrained when the accident happened.

Jones had also been to court four times previously for driving offences, had been issued with about 10 traffic infringement notices and had 10 priors for speeding.

Mr Payne said Jones' family was slowly imploding due to their extreme grief.

He said the family had relocated to Bundaberg in Queensland, they were currently in dire financial circumstances and 14 weeks behind in their rent.

Mr Payne submitted that Jones' culpability was at the lower end of the scale.

He said his client suffered post traumatic stress disorder and extreme depression and stress, suffering extreme guilt every day.

"He has been punished. He has punished himself," Mr Payne said.