The defence lawyer of a Stawell woman accused of causing the deaths of four south-west women in a Navarre collision says she 'missed the brake' when trying to stop at an intersection.
Lorraine Nicholson, in her 60s, pleaded not guilty to four charges of culpable driving causing death, and the alternative four charges of dangerous driving causing death, in the County Court on Tuesday.
The accused woman's Jeep T-boned a Kia driven by Hamilton's Elaine Middleton, 64 and carrying passengers Margaret Ely, 74, also of Hamilton, Heywood's Dianne Barr, 64, and Portland's Claudia Jackson, 72, at the intersection of Stawell-Avoca Road and Ararat-St Arnaud Road at 6pm on May 5, 2018.
The four women, who were returning home after attending a line-dancing competition in St Arnaud, died from their injuries at the scene.
Crown prosecutor Andrew Moore said there were "many, many warning signs" indicating an upcoming stop sign applicable to Nicholson at the intersection, and the accused woman told police she had regularly driven the road and knew she did not have right of way at the intersection.
At the point of collision, he said Nicholson's car was travelling at 89km/h, despite the section of road she was travelling on having a speed limit of 80km/h.
The crown prosecutor said the woman had told police on May 17 she had put her foot on what she thought was the brake, but nothing happened, and then the car accelerated.
The court was told according to airbag data taken from the Jeep five seconds before the crash until impact, there was no operation of the brake pedal, and there was no use of the accelerator by Nicholson from 3.9 seconds before the crash.
"As to her explanation to police of what she did ... braking and acceleration so forth, the crown case says that is utterly inconsistent with the objective evidence," Mr Moore said.
"This had disastrous and permanent consequences, resulting in loss of four lives."
The court heard neither Nicholson nor Ms Middleton had drugs or alcohol in their systems when the incident occurred.
Defence lawyer for Ms Nicholson, David Hallowes, said it was a "tragic and terribly sad case". But he argued that Nicholson had not been grossly negligent in the lead up to the collision, but rather she had "unfortunately and with devastating consequences missed the brake" when she attempted to stop at the intersection.
"If that's a reasonable possibility when you've heard all the evidence, then (the accused) is not guilty of all of these charges," he said.
"Just because a collision has occurred, and tragedy has resulted, it doesn't mean someone must be guilty of an offence."
Judge Michael Bourke told the 12-person jury in his directions they must remain "calm, dispassionate, unemotional and logical" when considering the evidence, and said the crown prosecution must prove the accused's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Nicholson appeared in the dock wearing a black blouse with white spots. While listening to the Judge's directions, the accused woman alternated between looking down at her lap and holding her clasped hands against the centre of her chest.
Evidence to be tendered during the trial includes the recorded police interview with the accused, aerial photographs and maps of the crash site. The jury will also be taken to the intersection where the collision occurred.
The trial will continue on Wednesday in front of Judge Bourke.
- This story first appeared on the Ballarat Courier website.