Truckie pleads guilty over Calder Freeway crash that killed toddler

Truckie pleads guilty over Calder Freeway crash that killed toddler

June 26, 2023

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It was meant to be the start of an exciting new chapter for Simon Peckitt and Felicity Stewart, but instead their world was torn apart.

The couple and their two young daughters had spent the weekend house-hunting in central Victoria after deciding on a tree-change.

Truck driver Matthew Livingston has pleaded guilty to culpable driving causing the death of a toddler.Credit: AAP

But as the family drove back to Melbourne on the Calder Freeway on December 6, 2021, a 43-tonne semi-trailer crashed into the back of their Volkswagen, near Diggers Rest.

Two-year-old Harriett, seated in the back seat, was killed instantly.

“She had the world in front of her,” Stewart told the County Court on Monday.

“She was such a kind soul and brought so much joy to her parents, her sister and her wider family.

“It’s terribly unfair that her life was cut so terribly short.”

The truck driver, Matthew John Livingston, has pleaded guilty to culpable driving causing Harriett’s death.

He also admitted to two charges of negligent driving causing serious injury to Peckitt and Stewart, as well as endangering 10 other people near the crash.

In the 400 metres before the crash site, there were several signs telling drivers to slow to 40km/h because of roadworks, the court heard.

Police officers at the crash scene.Credit: Nine News

But Livingston didn’t hit the brakes until 0.91 seconds before the collision, and struck the almost stationary Volkswagen at 86km/h.

The semi-trailer then veered to the right and hit a Toyota Hilux, which rolled and trapped another driver for about two hours.

Three other cars were struck either by the Volkswagen or the Hilux, while several other motorists were forced to drive off the road to avoid being hit.

Stewart had to be airlifted to hospital where she spent several months undergoing treatment for a catastrophic brain injury and other fractures.

She had post-traumatic amnesia for weeks afterwards and doctors advised her family not to tell her about Harriett’s death until the end of January 2022.

Peckitt also suffered skull fractures and bleeding in the brain, and the injuries continue to affect him.

“I woke up in the ICU in a state of delirium, completely unaware of the pain and suffering to come,” he told the court.

“It’s a sad reflection that the first funeral I attended was that of my daughter.”

Stewart also spoke of her youngest child, Jemima, who at 12 months old was trapped next to her dead sister with her two parents unconscious in the front seat.

“Jemima will never know what it’s like to have an older sister … she will not have her best mate beside her,” Stewart read to the court.

“She will carry this burden with her for the rest of her days.”

Prosecutor Grant Hayward said Livingston was sleep-deprived, and other motorists saw him swerve between lanes in the lead-up to the crash.

But the truck driver’s lawyers dispute the 44-year-old was fatigued before the crash.

The plea hearing continues before Judge Michael Tinney.


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