The community-based sentence handed to a sleeping truck driver who caused a five-vehicle pile-up on the Barton Highway is like “a slap in the face” to the family of one of his victims, who will be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Ash Allred had her two sons in her car when she stopped at roadworks between Canberra and Yass on 13 April 2022 before David Cameron crashed the prime mover he was driving into the line of stationary traffic.
While her sons escaped with minor injuries, she was trapped for a long time, spent 232 days in hospitals with serious injuries and was left paraplegic.
Ash, then 33, said she had been having a “dance battle” in the car with one of her sons before she heard a noise.
“I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a truck coming for us. I yelled for my boys to hold on,” she said.
“The cries of my boys is something I will never forget.”
She said her most serious injury was a T11 spinal fracture that meant she could no longer feel her legs.
“It is a miracle that there were no fatalities. But my life as it was died that day,” Ash said.
“I was ripped away from my kids, my family, my life in the blink of an eye.”
Cameron pleaded guilty to charges of negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm and four counts of causing bodily harm by misconduct before he appeared in the Queanbeyan Local Court to be sentenced on Tuesday (29 August).
The 60-year-old from the town of Bendoc in Victoria was spared being sent to jail when Magistrate Roger Clisdell handed him a nine-month intensive corrections order, which is a community-based sentence, and disqualified him from driving for 18 months.
After the sentencing, Ash’s mother, Christine Allred, said it hadn’t been harsh enough, remarking “the law absolutely stinks”.
“It feels like a slap in the face. We’re suffering still,” she said.
When asked how her family was going, she said, “Still broken and always will be”.
“It’s a life sentence for all of us because the life as we knew it is not there anymore,” Christine said.
While she was hoping for Cameron to serve time in jail, she said it would have been more important to her family that he lose his driver’s licence for the rest of his life.
Magistrate Clisdell said Cameron had been towing two semi-trailers loaded with timber, was driving at over 60kmph and would have had a clear vision of the line of cars for 350 metres.
Investigators found he hadn’t applied his brakes before the crash.
He had been tired and Magistrate Clisdell said it appeared he probably had a microsleep, falling asleep a few seconds before impact.
He said the fact no one had been killed was remarkable given the carnage, although he said Ms Allred’s life had been altered irrevocably.
“The harm to her is immense,” he said, adding it was a case of almost the worst outcome for a charge of grievous bodily harm.
He said Cameron, who had been a truck driver for 30 years, had since been diagnosed with sleep apnea for which he now received treatment.
He was remorseful, previously had an excellent driving record, was unlikely to reoffend and had claimed he would never drive trucks again, the magistrate said.