Driver using phone before fatal crash

A driver was sending and receiving Snapchat messages on her phone in the period immediately before the crash that killed bike rider Anthony Reeckman last year.

Instagram was open on the driver's phone at the moment of the crash, a court has heard.

The allegations were part of police evidence in the trial of 23-year-old Wodonga woman, Abby Sturgess, who has pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

Reekman, 59, an experienced rider from Norong, was riding his bike along the Springhurst-Rutherglen Road on January 27, 2023, when he was hit from behind. He died at the scene.

The prosecution told the Wodonga County Court that the car was travelling at about 80 km/h at the time of impact.

There was no evidence of emergency braking or steering.

The prosecution alleged that four messages were sent or received in the minutes leading up to the crash while Sturgess was behind the wheel of her Hyundai.

Instagram was on her screen for one minute and 38 seconds. 

The court heard that when interviewed after the crash, Sturgess denied using her phone, claiming that the sun had been in her eyes.

She continued to maintain her innocence until agreeing to plead guilty late last year.

Crown Prosecutor Danielle Guesdon said the "level of inattention was more than a momentary lapse with social media apps being accessed by the accused on her mobile phone in the minutes leading up to the collision”.

Reekman’s partner, Deb Enshaw, told the court the that she had been out riding her bike while police were trying to contact her.

“He was a huge part of my life which now just feels dull, empty and sad,” she told the court.

Defence lawyer Jo Swiney said further psychological material was still required to allow the defence to lodge submissions.

The next court hearing will be on 9 April 2024.

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