Family's devastation at death crash sentence

INEXPLICABLE was the only word used to describe how Dylan Jade Cooper came to be driving on the wrong side of road and crashed head-on into a ute driven by Travis Herschell.

Mr Herschell, 28, a rugby union player, was killed instantly while driving his Holden Rodeo on the way home to Bundaberg from work.

He had tried to brake and swerve but there was no evidence before Judge Michael Shanahan that P-plater Cooper, then 19, braked or attempted to avoid the crash while heading home to Gin Gin.

Cooper, 22, was sentenced to 18 months in jail after he pleaded guilty this week to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death on May 27, 2014.

Taking into account his young age, that he had no alcohol or drug in his system, nor had any traffic or criminal offences before or since, Judge Shanahan ordered Cooper's release to parole in September after serving three months.


"He accepts fault but is unclear how his car came to be on the wrong side of the road," Judge Shanahan said.

"Plainly he (Cooper) was totally on the wrong side of the road and didn't try to brake or evade."


Mikayla Haupt

Crown prosecutor David Nardone said there had been time for Mr Herschell to react and try to take evasive action when Cooper's ute travelled across unbroken double lines.

Because of the gravity of the consequences, Mr Nardone said the Court of Appeal considered 18 months jail to be bottom line in sentencing.

In his submission, defence barrister Tim Ryan said it was "a finely balanced case" where the higher court could use its discretion not to order actual jail time although the offence had caused the death of a citizen.

Mr Ryan said it was an aberration by Cooper and he sought a wholly suspended jail sentence.

He said Cooper spent four days in a Brisbane hospital and was placed in an induced coma following the crash.

"He has no recollection (of it) and it's not suggested there was excessive speed, drugs or alcohol," Mr Ryan said.



Mikayla Haupt

"It was just another work day.

"This is a very difficult case. Because he has no recollection of events it is a difficult matter to come to grips.

"And it exposes him to serious risk of imprisonment."

Mr Ryan said the reasons can't be adequately explained.

Judge Shanahan said it almost sounded as if Cooper had fallen asleep although there was no suggestion he was fatigued.

He said something caused Cooper to go totally onto the wrong side of the Bundaberg-Gin Gin Rd.

"You were simply driving home. For some reason inexplicable, your vehicle went on to the wrong side of the road across double lines," Judge Shanahan said.

"Circumstances are unclear as to the cause but you were totally on the wrong side of the road."

Mr Herschell's mother, Debbie Mills, wrote a victim impact statement to the court "about her anguish and despair every day" over the loss of her eldest son.

Judge Shanahan said there was nothing he could say that would lessen that devastation for the family.

Outside court, Mrs Mills echoed those sentiments.

"Travis was my first born .... a larrikin, full of mischief, who would do anything for anyone," she said.

"(Dylan) got three months; Travis got loss of life."

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