Jury finds daughter killed mum in horror crash
A cannabis-induced driver has been found guilty of causing the death of her mother during a 2017 car crash on the Mid-North Coast.
An 11-person jury concluded in Port Macquarie District Court on Wednesday that 49-year-old Kylee Heather Anderson had been driving dangerously when her mother's Ford Fiesta veered left out of its northbound lane of the Pacific Highway near Telegraph Point.
She then made a sharp correction into an oncoming Mazda Hatchback, heading south.
A B-double truck, which was travelling south, then struck the rear of the car before it hit a fourth vehicle - a Toyota HiLux - that came to rest on the rear roof of the Fiesta.
Back seat passenger 72-year-old Kay Anderson was transported to Port Macquarie Hospital, but later died.
All other occupants survived, however a second back seat passenger sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result.
The driver of the Mazda sustained a broken arm, however the driver of the truck and the utility vehicle were uninjured.
Kay's widowed husband and father of Kylee, Bill Anderson, had been driving in a separate vehicle as part of the family's two-car convoy from Balgownie, near Wollongong, to Southport in Queensland.
He was in court to support his daughter who wept loudly when the verdict came down.
"I'm so sorry," Anderson yelled.
Coming to terms with the verdict outside court, Mr Anderson said he was in complete shock.
"I just can't believe it …" he repeated to his legal team. "This is just unbelievable, I can't believe it."
There was no question during the trial that Anderson was the driver of the vehicle when it crashed into the oncoming Mazda at about 8.50am on September 26, 2017, nor was there any conjecture that the car being driven by Anderson was the one that caused the crash which killed Kay and hospitalised its other back seat occupant.
What the Crown prosecution had to prove, was that Anderson drove in a manner which was dangerous.
Anderson has previously pleaded not guilty to a charge of dangerous driving occasioning death, and dangerous driving occasioning actual bodily harm.
She was also charged with a number of backup charges, including negligent driving occasioning death; negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm; drive while under the influence of alcohol and drive motor vehicle with illicit drug present in blood.
On the final day of the trial, Crown Prosecutor Jillian Kelten told the jury that the level of cannabis located in Anderson's blood after the crash was consistent with her having consumed the drug up to two hours prior.
She submitted to the jury that Anderson consumed cannabis during an earlier rest stop, before taking the wheel of the Ford Fiesta to relieve her mother who was feeling tired.
The pair, along with two other occupants of the vehicle, had been travelling since about midnight when they left on the lengthy journey from Anderson's parents' house in Balgownie to her home in Southport.
Both Kay and Bill had made the decision to travel to their daughter's Southport home, and take turns driving as she and her children had been suffering flu symptoms and felt unwell.
Bill Anderson was driving in a separate vehicle, and had lost contact with the Fiesta following the rest stop near Nabiac. He was travelling with his grandson.
Anderson did not give evidence in the trial, instead opting to rely on her interview statement to police that she was driving with proper care and attention when she crashed.
She had told police that she saw a white or silver car overtake across double lines in her direction, and that her son took the wheel of the car and veered to the left to avoid a head-on.
When she noticed they were headed for trees, she said it was then that she took back the wheel and overcorrected it into the oncoming Mazda.
But during the trial, Ms Kelten quashed both Anderson and her son's statements as 'unreliable'.
Ms Kelten relied on several witness accounts and submitted dashcam footage, captured by the B-double, that purported to show that there was no oncoming white or silver vehicle heading in their direction.
"It [footage] I can submit which cannot be challenged," she said. "It is Incredibly strong and compelling evidence.
"The Crown submits that what that footage shows, is this … the white car is in front of the truck and stays in front of the truck in its southbound lane, it is not overtaking the truck.
"It shows real time the moment that the car left the road and came back onto the road.
"We can see it remains in the southbound lane … the only time that it [the Mazda] leaves the lane is when the accused car leaves the road and hits it.
"There was no overtaking white car, it is fabrication, an invention, an attempt at an excuse for the collision."
The Crown also relied on expert evidence provided to the jury by two doctors, who had said the level of cannabis found in Ms Anderson's blood showed that she had consumed it anywhere up to six hours prior to the accident.
The Crown argued that this, as well as her fatigue and lengthy time awake, contributed to her erratic driving in the moments leading up to, and immediately prior to impact.
"She was weaving, she was erratic in her speed, and is that not the type of behaviour Dr Perl described was consistent of someone driving with cannabis in their system?" she told the jury.
"Witnesses described the concern in the manner of her driving … all witnesses say they saw a slow drifting off the road, four witnesses in three different cars, followed by a sharp correction back into the other direction - directly into the oncoming car."
She seriously failed, the crown submits, to exercise proper management of her car, when looking at her driving subjectively - you would find that she was driving dangerously."
Defence barrister Peter Williams argued that the cannabis in her system did not impair her reaction time, nor was she fatigued.
"The Crown said she was fatigued? Why? Where is the evidence of fatigue?" he said.
"Do you really think her father would have let her drive if she was fatigued?
"He wouldn't let his wife drive when he noticed she was fatigued."
He relied on one witness account that described her reaction time was 'almost immediate' when she corrected the car after it drifted off the roadside.
"What are you supposed to do? The car is heading for the trees and you react … what are you meant to do?
"If you're slow to react it shows you're affected [by cannabis], and if you overreact you're also affected?
"I would suggest to you ladies and gentleman that you can be satisfied that she was not driving in a manner that was dangerous and you will find her not guilty."
Judge Nicole Noman retired the jury to deliberate over their verdict, which took them just 30 minutes before a guilty plea was returned.
Following the proceedings, Judge Noman approved a Crown application for Ms Anderson's detention, given her lengthy criminal history across three states and the risk of her failing to appear at sentencing.
She will be required to appear via AVL for sentencing at Sydney's Downing Centre District Court on April 12.
Originally published as Jury finds daughter killed mum in horror crash