WITNESSES SAY SPEED KILLED: Son accused in car crash death


A CAR driven by Yarrawonga man Joshua Michael Smith was allegedly overtaking other cars at high speed moments before slamming into a tree, killing his mother.

A witness at a committal hearing in Wangaratta yesterday estimated the Commodore hit speeds of between 120km/h and 140km/h.

The crash at the Murray Valley Highway and Woods Road intersection in Yarrawonga on April 23 last year killed Laraine Smith, 67, instantly.

Smith, 34, sat between his sister and father yesterday as six witnesses gave evidence to magistrate John Murphy.

He has pleaded not guilty to culpable driving, dangerous driving causing death and reckless conduct.

Witness Steven Hutchinson said Smith’s car was zig-zagging as it overtook other cars.

“The next moment he was off and into the trees,” he said.

Bus driver Max Allen was first on the scene after he saw a cloud of dust and debris ahead of him.

At first Mr Allen thought both occupants were dead, as Smith was quiet and motionless as he hung upside down inside.

The first policeman to arrive a few minutes later, Leading Sen-Constable Shane Weeks, established Mrs Smith’s son was still alive.

Mr Allen told the court he spoke to a man at the site who told him the driver and passenger had been arguing as the car sped along the highway.

But he told defence barrister Scott Johns that he did not report the man’s comments to police.

Several witnesses told of seeing Smith’s car travelling at an ever-increasing speed as it overtook cars on the Murray Valley Highway.

Yarrawonga woman Julie Semple had been shopping at a hardware store when she decided to head home in her husband’s four-wheel-drive about 4pm.

She turned on to the highway and began driving back into Yarrawonga.

In her statement to police, she said she went just a short distance when she saw a car heading towards her at high speed.

“I didn’t even see where he came from because he was going so quick,” she said.

“He just appeared in front of me.”

Ms Semple told the court yesterday that she barely had time to try to move her car to the side of her lane.

“I just pulled over thinking ‘I hope he misses me’. It was that close.”

Ms Semple did not see the car veer off the road and crash into a tree.

The crash left Smith with serious internal injuries and broken bones, requiring rehabilitation at Epworth Hospital.

Three more witnesses are expected to give evidence today when the hearing continues.

The case will then be adjourned part-heard to a later date, as it is not known when one of two remaining police witnesses will be available to give evidence.