Victims’ families confront NSW truckie

The heartbroken family of Sydney truck crash victim Peter Wem is still waiting for an apology from the driver responsible for “the worst day of our lives”.


Mr Wem, 73, and passenger Graham Holtfreter, 71, died while trying to flee an inferno when the tanker loaded with 34,000 litres of fuel crashed and burst into flames after coming down a steep stretch of Mona Vale Road in October 2013.

Mr Wem’s son Andrew delivered an emotional victim impact statement at truck driver Shane Anthony Day’s sentence hearing in Sydney on Friday, describing how his mother had been stripped of her life companion.

He called Day’s fuel tanker a “bomb on wheels” and the family was upset they’d received no apology over the crash, which he described as the worst day of their lives.

“The negligent actions of others have destroyed our family,” Mr Wem told Sydney’s District Court.

“Today is an attempt to get some kind of closure, so we can move forward, so you can understand what you’ve done and how it has affected our lives,” he told Day, who sat quietly behind his legal team.

Mr Holtfreter’s grandson Jack Weston broke down while reading a statement on behalf of the victim’s three children that spoke of how the siblings were still coming to terms with how their father died.

They said they’d had no contact or apology from Cootes – Day’s former employer – and there were serious questions to answer in relation to responsibility taken by the trucking firm.

“In our view there is no excuse … for speeding whilst hauling possibly the most dangerous load,” Mr Weston read out.

Burns victim Neil Donaldson described the frightening moment he saw the tanker speed towards his car, clip a pole, catch fire and roll.

Acting on instinct and with just seconds in hand, he decided to flee through the flames.

He barely survived and suffered burns to his head, neck, arms, ears and back which required more than 10 weeks’ in hospital.

Earlier this week, a judge found Day guilty of negligent driving occasioning death after being acquitted by a jury last month of dangerous driving occasioning death and grievous bodily harm.

Crown prosecutor Craig Patrick SC told Judge Leonie Flannery she should consider giving Day a custodial sentence, and reiterated how he had been speeding 13km over the limit before the crash.

Day’s barrister Grant Brady SC raised the possibility of a good behaviour bond, and said the crash would never had occurred if Day’s brakes had been working.

Judge Flannery is due to sentence Day on March 11.