THE defence lawyer of a woman accused of causing the deaths of four women in a Navarre crash says she "missed the brake" when trying to stop at an intersection.
Stawell woman Lorraine Nicholson, 64, pleaded not guilty to four charges of culpable driving causing death, and the alternative four charges of dangerous driving causing death, in the Ballarat County Court on Tuesday.
Nicholson's Jeep T-boned a Kia driven by Elaine Middleton and carrying passengers Margaret Ely, Dianne Barr and Claudia Jackson, aged 64 to 75, at Stawell-Avoca Road and Ararat-St Arnaud Road at 6pm on May 5, 2018. The four women, who were returning to the Western District after attending a line-dancing competition in St Arnaud, died.
Crown prosecutor Andrew Moore said there were "many, many warning signs" indicating an upcoming stop sign applicable to Nicholson at the intersection, and Nicholson told police she had regularly driven the road and knew she did not have right of way. At the point of collision, he said Nicholson's car was travelling at 89km/h, despite the section of road she was travelling on having a speed limit of 80km/h.
Mr Moore said Nicholson told police on May 17 she had put her foot on what she thought was the brake, but nothing happened, and then the car accelerated. The court heard that airbag data taken from the Jeep five seconds before the crash until impact showed there was no operation of the brake pedal, and Nicholson did not us the accelerator from 3.9 seconds before the crash.
"As to her explanation to police of what she did ... braking and acceleration so forth, the crown case says that is utterly inconsistent with the objective evidence," Mr Moore said. "This had disastrous and permanent consequences, resulting in loss of four lives."
Neither Nicholson nor Ms Middleton had drugs or alcohol in their systems when the crash occurred.
Defence lawyer, David Hallowes, argued that Nicholson had not been grossly negligent, but rather she had "unfortunately, and with devastating consequences, missed the brake" when attempting to stop.
"Just because a collision has occurred, and tragedy has resulted, it doesn't mean someone must be guilty of an offence," he said.
Judge Michael Bourke told the 12-person jury they must remain "calm, dispassionate, unemotional and logical", and Mr Moore must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Nicholson appeared in the dock and alternated between looking down at her lap and holding her clasped hands against her chest.
On Wednesday, Detective Sergeant Darren Williams of the Major Collision Investigation Unit, who attended the scene, told the jury road conditions were dry and it was daylight at the time of the incident.
Detective Sergeant Williams, who is the police informant, provided maps of the intersection which showed its signage at the time of the fatality and as recent as Monday. He said a number of signs had been erected since the crash, including an advisory sign before the stop sign. He said rumble strips were also installed.
The jury watched GoPro video footage of a police vehicle driving along the road and through the intersection, as Nicholson did on the day of the crash. Nicholson was visibly shaking in the dock as the footage was shown.
The jury were taken to the intersection on Thursday which will help them "better understand it", Judge Bourke said.
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