The teenage driver who caused the death of five friends when he crashed his ute into a tree while travelling at double the speed limit in Buxton in September 2022, has been sentenced to a full term of 12 years in prison, with a minimum term of 7 years.

Guilty plea

Tyrrel Edwards pleaded guilty earlier this year to five counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death – the aggravating factor being that he was travelling in excess of 45km/h over the speed limit.

The ute was also carrying too many passengers – it was registered to carry up to four people but had six.

Mr Edwards was 18 years old when he drove at twice the designated speed limit when his car careered off the East Parade at Buxton at 7.50pm on 6 September 2022, killing Tyrese Bechard, 15, Antonio Desisto, 16, Lily Van de Putte, 14, Gabriella McLennan, 15, and 14-year-old Summer Williams.

Mr Edwards was the only survivor and only suffered minor injuries. And, because the group of young people were all friends who attended Picton High School, the impact on the small community in the Macarthur Region with a population of just over 2,700 people has been especially devastating.

Speeding and filming

During the sentencing hearing, New South Wales District Court Judge Christopher O'Brien heard that in the hour prior to the crash, Tyrell Edwards was driving at speeds of up to nearly 147km/h and moments before his ute careered off the road, he was travelling at almost 118 km/h (double the marked speed limit).

The ute slammed into one tree, rebounded, spun backwards and slammed into another.

The second impact tore the vehicle in half. First responders said the accident scene was one of the most horrific they had ever seen.

His Honour remarked that the defendant had engaged in a sustained period of "erratic and aggressive" driving that involved showing off to the victims, and in that time he abandoned his responsibility as a road user.

Sentencing

His Honour also noted that the deaths were "completely avoidable".

Mr Edwards pleaded guilty and was therefore entitled to a 'sentencing discount'.

His Honour also took into account his genuine remorse, that he apologised to the families and friends of the five young people killed in the crash, saying he wished he could "have his friends back."

The Judge further noted the young man experienced complex psychological issues after the crash, including PTSD, major depressive disorder and persistent suicidal ideation, which would make his custodial sentence more onerous.

He ultimately sentenced Mr Edwards to spend a maximum erm of 12 years in prison, setting a non-parole period of seven years – which is the earliest time the defendant will be eligible to apply for release into the community under conditions of parole.

Taking into account the time Mr Edwards served before being released as a result of a successful bail application, he will be eligible for parole on 11 June 2030.

Aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death

Aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death is an offence under section 52A of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove that:

  • The defendant was the driver of a motor vehicle,
  • The vehicle was involved in an impact,
  • The impact caused the death of another person, and
  • The defendant was under the influence of alcohol or another drug, or was driving at a dangerous speed, or was driving in a dangerous manner at the time, and
  • At least one circumstance of aggravation existed.

The circumstances of aggravation that relate to the offence are that the defendant had a blood alcohol reading of at least 0.150 at the time, was otherwise 'very substantially impaired' by alcohol or another drug, or was driving at least 45km/h over the speed limit.

When the offence is determined to be 'aggravated', the prosecution must prove that the defendant had a 'prescribed concentration of alcohol' in his or her bloodstream (which is a reading of at least 0.150) or was other 'very substantially impaired' by a drug or drugs or was driving at more than 45km/h over the speed limit or was being pursued by police.

In this case, the circumstances of aggravation were speed.

Mr Edwards had previously had his driver licence suspended for speeding offences, and was on a pro

Dangerous and serious driving offences in New South Wales

The Crimes Act 1900 and Road Transport Act 2013 NSW are the pieces of legislation which generally contain the most serious driving offences in New South Wales.

Broadly speaking, serious driving offences are those whereby a person drives in a manner that puts the safety of themselves, any passengers and/or members of the public at risk to the extent they could cause death or serious injury.

Such offences include:

Dangerous driving occasioning death or grievous bodily harm occurs when a person was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, , at a dangerous speed or in a dangerous manner, resulting in impact that caused a death or grevious bodily harm.

Negligent driving offences are generally referred to as situations where a person causes an accident, however they were not driving in a reckless or dangerous way that might bring about a more serious charge.

Reckless driving refers to driving in a manner, such as speeding, where you are likely to cause harm or injury to another person.

Furious Driving is an offence under both the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) and Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

Predatory Driving charges apply in situations where a person drives near another vehicle in a menacing or threatening way with the intention to cause an accident or bring about harm to another person.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.