The truck driver who crashed into traffic waiting at a roadworks stop sign, allegedly killing a young couple and injuring 11 others may have fallen asleep at the wheel, a prosecutor alleged. Robert Crockford, a 50-year-old interstate truck driver from Queensland, was behind the wheel of a semi-trailer when it ploughed into seven cars on the Newell Highway near Dubbo in Central West New South Wales on January 16. A bail hearing in the NSW Supreme Court heard Crockford had told police and witnesses two different stories for why he failed to stop or even slow down, The Daily Telegraph reported. Crockford first said his brakes had failed but later changed his story saying he had a coughing fit and blacked out, police said in court.
The crash allegedly killed a young couple, university student Hannah Ferguson and Reagan Skinner, both aged 19 and injured 11 others including a two-year-old girl. Mr Crockford allegedly told paramedics at the scene of the crash that his accelerator became jammed and his brakes failed before he smashed into vehicles stopped at roadworks. But in a recorded interview with the police, Mr Crockford said he experienced a coughing fit and blacked out, the court heard. Police told the court they also inspected the brakes on Mr Crockford’s semi-trailer and found them to be in good working order.
He was also examined in hospital in relation to the possible coughing fit but the court heard there was no evidence that he had any condition which could have caused an uncontrollable cough. Crown Prosecutor Paul Leask told the court Crockford was concealing the reason why his truck failed to even decelerate as it travelled for some distance in a straight line into traffic. ‘He was unconscious, asleep or not watching the road,’ Mr Leask said.
There is a situation he is denying which goes to the heart of why two people died and several people were injured’, the court heard. Crockford, who broke his leg in the crash and his now in a wheelchair, was charged with 10 offences including two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death. He was refused bail in Dubbo Local Court earlier this month with police citing his lengthy traffic history which dated back to 1986 and included numerous speeding offences, a negligent driving charge and licence suspensions in New South Wales and Queensland.
Crockford’s lawyer Neha Evans applied for bail on her client’s behalf saying his mother was willing to put up her family home as surety while his girlfriend agreed to pay $3000 cash for bail. Mr Leask opposed bail on the grounds Crockford was a flight risk, may drive again and could interfere with witnesses. Ms Evans challenged those claims saying he had strong community ties, that there was no evidence he had interfered with witnesses and he couldn’t drive even if he wanted to because he was in a wheelchair. She also defended his traffic record saying: ‘It needs to be viewed in terms of his employment as an interstate truck driver’ and the fact that he drove ‘millions of kilometres’ each year.’ Mr Leask said Crockford’s traffic history was ‘terrible’ and was, ‘in itself capable of displaying a tendency on his part to drive in a manner which is in contradiction to the road rules.’ ‘He was a danger to the community before this collision,’ he said.