Stephen George Russell, the man at the centre of a 2019 fatal caravan crash near Walcha, NSW, which claimed two lives, is expected to plead not guilty at his trial that starts today.
On June 14 2019, Mr Russell was charged with a number of offences in relation to a fatal vehicle crash near Walcha, NSW, in January of that year which claimed two lives. The Toyota Prado that he was driving was towing a caravan when the vehicle struck Armco railing and then a tree, killing the front and rear-seat passengers of the vehicle. Another rear seat passenger and Mr Russell survived the crash.
Mr Russell is facing charges of doing an act intending to pervert the course of justice; two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death; negligent driving occasioning death; dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.
Of particular note to caravanners, Mr Russell is also charged with towed vehicle weight exceeding the capacity of the towing attachment and towed vehicle weight exceeding the maximum laden weight.
In August last year, RV Daily spoke to Tracey Wilcox whose mother and brother were killed in the crash. She told us her mum, Lynette, who was 72 years old, bought her caravan, a Jayco Heritage, in order to fulfil her lifelong dream of travelling around Australia.
On January 3, 2019, she, her husband, Mr Russell, her son Stephen and his girlfriend, headed off from Tamworth in Mr Russell’s Toyota Prado with the caravan in tow, bound for Port Macquarie. They had pulled over for lunch in Walcha and had resumed their trip when the crash occurred.
Mr Russell was a former driver in the Army and, in his civilian life, worked as a truck driver.
According to Tracey, police investigating the crash arranged for the remains of the caravan and its contents to be collected from the accident scene and weighed. Mr Russell was later charged with the 8 offences.
The case is a timely reminder to all travellers, if you’re driving an overweight rig, it is absolutely possible that you could have a crash and kill someone. In the case of such a serious incident, if the investigating police suspect that your rig was overloaded at the time of the crash, they can and will weigh the remains of the vehicle and lay charges if they believe any limits have been exceeded. Those charges are serious, and a custodial sentence may be the outcome if proved.
The trial starts today in the Tamworth District Court and is expected to last seven days.
Background reading: Is this the most significant court case for Australian caravanners, ever?