Neighbours predicted Chatsworth fatal: judge

A TRAGIC highway crash at Chatsworth more than two years ago was still a raw emotional wound for truck driver Craig Anthony Eustice, when he appeared in court yesterday.

Eustice, 46, of Arana Hills, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death on December 19, 2015.

The court was told yesterday of the moment his life changed.

A moment checking his rear vision mirrors meant Eustice barely had time to react when he realised the vehicle in front or him was stopped to turn right into Irvine Rd.

He did not have room to avoid clipping the rear of the vehicle.

Judge Gary Long said the impact sent the second vehicle "broadsiding" along the highway, hitting an oncoming car and fatally injuring its driver.

The court was told Eustice suffered serious spinal injuries, requiring surgery and rehabilitation and still suffered post traumatic stress disorder.

His truck had crashed down an embankment on the eastern side of the Bruce Hwy about 1.30pm.

In the oncoming vehicle, travelling north, a man, 52, suffered injuries which claimed his life that night.

Judge Gary Long said the crash presented the court with "a rare case," in which tragic consequences were accompanied by a "low level of culpability".

"Eighteen months' imprisonment is generally at the bottom end of the range, because of the consequences," he said.

"It is a rare case that does not involve an actual custodial term."

The judge noted that the probability of such an incident had been noted as early as 2011 by local residents.

"The lack of room for inside passing, an intersection at the bottom of an incline on a curved section of road" were contributing factors.

"This compounded the difficulty that confronted you," Judge Long told Eustice.

"These tend to extenuate rather than excuse your conduct on that day."

The New South Wales man who lost his life was transported to Royal Brisbane Hospital with multiple fractures and internal injuries.

The truck driven by Eustice was reported at the time to be a tanker carrying recycled cooking oil.

It lay across the highway, leaking oil and blocking traffic in both directions for some hours.

Four ambulances were dispatched from Gympie, along with police and firefighters, who cut the New South Wales man, a father of two, from his vehicle.

Judge Long noted Eustice's good driving record, with only one offence for speeding in 2014 and one for disobeying a sign the following year.

Eustice had held a position of trust and responsibility as an officer's driver in the Army and was highly regarded for his overseas service. He was sentenced to 18 months' jail, suspended for 18 months, and disqualified for a year.

Gympie Times

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