4 March 2024

14-year-old critically injured in January's fatal Barton Highway crash still 'non-responsive'

| Albert McKnight
crashed car

The crash on the Barton Highway on 17 January 2024 resulted in the death of 19-year-old Joshua Stewart. Photo: ACT Policing.

The 14-year-old boy critically injured in the fatal car crash that killed an older teenager has woken up from a coma but is unresponsive, a court has heard.

On 17 January, 19-year-old Joshua Stewart died after he was in a car crash on the Barton Highway, the first person to die on the ACT’s roads in 2024.

He had been a passenger in the stolen car. All other occupants were 14-year-old boys, including the alleged driver.

Police arrived and allegedly found the driver and one of the other boys standing outside the car. A third boy had life-threatening head and chest injuries and was taken to Canberra Hospital for urgent treatment and surgery.

Mr Stewart died from his injuries a couple of hours after the crash, while the injured boy remained in a critical and unstable condition when the alleged driver first faced court.

On Monday (4 March), prosecutor David Swan told the ACT Children’s Court that this injured boy had regained consciousness from a coma but was “non-responsive in hospital”.

READ ALSO Ex-Gungahlin United president receives suspended sentence for ‘breathless, inexcusable’ theft from club

The alleged driver currently faces a charge of culpable driving causing grievous bodily harm over this boy’s injuries, while he also faces a charge of culpable driving causing death over Mr Stewart’s death.

The prosecutor was in court on Monday (4 March) to apply to revoke the alleged driver’s bail, which had been granted on strict conditions earlier this year.

Mr Swan alleged the boy had breached his bail by going near and talking to the other 14-year-old, who hadn’t been left with any injuries after the crash, at their school.

He also alleged there was some suggestion the pair had been discussing drugs due to their hand gestures, but he couldn’t take that submission any further.

A 14-year-old boy has been charged over the fatal crash on the Barton Highway on 17 January 2024. Photo: ACT Policing.

Defence lawyer Sam Lynch from the Aboriginal Legal Service said the alleged contact had been in a common area at their school and occurred when one of the boys was leaving and the other was arriving.

He said his client had made a comment to a student who was with the other 14-year-old, then told the 14-year-old that he wasn’t allowed to speak to him.

“It’s not … an orchestrated or sinister breach,” he said.

Mr Lynch said his client had been going to school and was on a waitlist to speak to a counsellor. There was no suggestion that he had committed other offences or breached other bail conditions.

READ ALSO Daughter accused of dark web murder plot to kill her parents pleads guilty to incitement

Magistrate James Stewart said he was concerned due to information in other documents before the court, which claimed that the alleged driver was increasing his attempts to have casual contact with the other 14-year-old.

Mr Lynch, who said the pair had been good friends, reported that his client disagreed with those allegations.

The magistrate said he wanted to hear more about what was alleged to have taken place and he would adjourn to hear the application to revoke bail on Tuesday (5 March).

“I can’t tell you how serious this is,” he told the boy.

Bail was continued in the meantime, and no pleas have been entered.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.