Fatal crash driver may walk free in two years

The horror crash at the intersection of Ruthven and James Sts.
The horror crash at the intersection of Ruthven and James Sts. Stuart Cumming

AFTER running a red light and crashing into another vehicle on Ruthven St, drink-driver Junior Ratu Albert got out of his car and walked off, passing within metres of two of his victims lying seriously injured and dying on the street, Toowoomba District Court heard.

The tragedy at the corner of Ruthven and James Sts about 5.25am, March 27, last year, left St George man Luke Robinson Walker, 41, dying on the road and his wife Catherine Walker, 33, in a serious condition with head injuries and multiple fractures.

Crown prosecutor David Jones told the court the couple had been thrown from the vehicle on impact yet Albert, 28, had not even bothered to remain at the scene to help the injured and instead walked off.

Unknown to him at the time a police car had been following Albert's vehicle and he was soon found walking on the street by an officer.

When approached, Albert had admitted to being the driver of the offending vehicle but instead of asking about the condition of his victims, simply asked the officer how much trouble was he in, Mr Jones said.

The court heard Luke and Catherine Walker and family had been heading to Brisbane Airport the day before but after their car broke down they stayed the night in Toowoomba.

On the morning of the tragedy, Mr Walker's sisters Lacey Walker, 31, and Louise Walker, 23, had taken over transporting the couple and their baby Odin Walker.

Before setting off, Louise Walker had asked her brother to switch seats with her so he could have more room in the front, but Mr Walker had declined, saying he wanted to sit in the back seat with his wife and their baby Odin who was in a baby capsule.

Lacey Walker was driving east on James St when Albert drove through the red light and crashed into rear passenger side of the family's car station wagon.

Apart from the serious injuries sustained by Mr and Mrs Walker, Louise and Lacey Walker also sustained various injuries but remarkably baby Odin escaped injury.

Albert sustained relatively minor bruising and he had returned a breath/alcohol reading of 0.124 when breath tested after the crash.

Mr Jones said it was estimated Albert had been doing no less than 77kmh in the 50kmh zone at the time.

Before a packed court room of family members and friends of both families, Albert, 28, pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and grievous bodily harm while adversely affected by an intoxicating substance and leaving the scene before police arrived.

His barrister Robbie Davies said his client was Fijian born and bred and would most likely face deportation because at the time of the accident he was only on a temporary visa.His client, a father of two young children, had arrived in Toowoomba just weeks before the tragedy to take up a job at the Oakey Abattoir.

It had been planned for his client's wife and children to move from Kempsey to Toowoomba but now it was likely the family would move to Fiji if his client was deported.

Mr Davies said his client was remorseful and had written a letter to the Walker family expressing his regret which was handed to the court.

Judge Tony Rafter SC sentenced Albert to eight years in jail but ordered he be eligible to apply for release on parole as of March 26, 2017, after having served three years.

Pre-sentence custody of 320 days served by Albert since the accident was declared time served and Judge Rafter disqualified him from holding or obtaining a driver's licence "absolutely".



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