Driver ‘looking at breastfeeding partner’ before crash
A Logan drug driver was "looking over at his breastfeeding partner" when he suddenly veered off the roadway in the South Burnett region, causing a fiery crash which killed her, a court has heard.
27-year-old Loganlea man Aaron John Mannell was charged with dangerous driving causing death while adversely affected by an intoxicating substance and drug driving following the death of his partner, 26-year-old Sabrina Monique Strasberger, just after 2pm on August 10 last year at Chinchilla Wondai Rd, Durong.
In Beenleigh Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Mr Mannell was committed to stand trial in Kingaroy District Court after Magistrate Gary Finger ruled that although there were "inconsistencies" in the prosecution's case, its witnesses were not "discredited to such an extent that they were inherently unreliable".
The hearing centred on questions surrounding a small dead kangaroo or wallaby on the road and what influence its presence exerted on Mr Mannell's actions.
The defence, led by barrister Timothy Ryan, argued the crash was caused by Mr Mannell's evasive actions to avoid the hazard.
He said Mr Mannell's actions fell short of the standard required for dangerous driving, although he conceded the driving was nevertheless negligent.
Mr Ryan submitted Mr Mannell should have been charged with the lesser offence of driving without due care and attention causing death, in light of the fact Mr Mannell admitted in his record of interview he was "looking over at his (breastfeeding) partner" in the key moments leading up to the accident.
The prosecution, however, argued Mr Mannell's driving was not materially affected by the dead animal on the road.
Police witness A/Sgt Christopher McKindley, the investigating officer, told the court under cross-examination that the animal's size was so "minimal" he didn't bother measuring it, as he believed even a hatchback's axles would have no trouble clearing the hazard.
A/Sgt McKindley also told the court his analysis of the scene, especially track marks in the grass on the shoulder, indicated Mr Mannell's vehicle had veered off the road well before the dead animal.
In addition to this, the court also heard Mr Mannell was travelling dangerously close to the vehicle in front of him.
Mr Ryan also sought to cast doubt on whether Mr Mannell was "adversely affected" by the cannabis in his system when the crash occurred.
He seized on a comment made by a general medical officer in the Coroner's office that because the amount found in Mr Mannell's blood was small, they could not say whether he was in fact impaired.
Mr Ryan argued this meant a jury could not find beyond reasonable doubt Mr Mannell was, in fact, impaired.
The police case, however, is that because the test was done seven hours after the accident, Mr Mannell's body had had time to process the drug.
The trial is yet to be listed.
Originally published as Alleged drug driver 'looking at breastfeeding partner' before deadly crash: Court