Court told of fatal cattle-truck, caravan crash carnage that left parents dead

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A teenage boy was watching television on his iPad when a cattle truck slammed into his parent’s caravan, killing both of them, on a Western Australian outback highway two years ago.

Key points:

  • Station owner Kimberly De Pledge has pleaded not guilty to two counts of dangerous driving resulting in death
  • South hedland District Court in WA has heard from teenager Jack Dawson who lost both parents in the crash
  • The trial is continuing

Jack Dawson was 16 at the time of the crash, which happened as he and his sister Larissa, 14, were heading north with their parents on a holiday to Broome.

It is alleged Pilbara station owner Kimberly Thomas De Pledge was driving his prime-mover loaded with 180 cattle, when he failed to slow for roadworks at a bridge crossing over the dry Coonarie Creek, 165km south of Port Hedland, on the afternoon of Friday June 30, 2017.

A jury has been shown footage of the moment the hit the Dawson’s caravan, sparking an explosion.

The accident killed Tom Price couple Mark Dawson, 46 and his wife Lara, 45.

De Pledge, 49, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of dangerous driving in circumstances which resulted in a death.

His trial is underway in South Hedland District Court, which has been packed with friends and family of those from both sides of the case.

The court heard their paths crossed as they were both heading north on the Great Northern Highway, and approaching a set of roadworks at a bridge crossing.

The Dawson’s Land Cruiser was situated between a four-trailer road train carrying iron-ore ahead of them, and the cattle truck, being driven by De Pledge, behind them.

A second cattle truck was also behind De Pledge’s vehicle.

In a statement read to the court, Jack Dawson said his parent’s vehicle overtook the truck minutes before the crash.

“About four to five minutes before the crash we overtook the truck,” he said in the statement.

He said he was watching a television show at the time of impact — the collision causing the Land Cruiser to rise at the rear and roll a number of times.

Some roadworks signs lying flat on road: court

Prosecutor Ben Stanwix told the court Mark Dawson was driving the family’s Land Cruiser, with caravan in tow, travelling about 110kph, but then slowing in the roadworks area.

Two of the roadworks signs with the 80kph and 60kph temporary speed limits were lying flat on the ground, but other signs were visible warning motorists that roadwork was ahead, and to slow down, the court heard.

The dashcam footage showed the 60kph and 80kph speed limits were displayed on the opposite side of the highway.

The roadworks — an expansion joint at a bridge — had created a dip in the road.

Mr Stanwix told the court both the driver of the iron-ore road train, and the Dawsons slowed down for the roadworks, but the cattle truck crashed into the back of the Dawsons’ caravan.

“When it struck, the force of the truck forced the caravan to jack-knife with the Land Cruiser, and propelled it into the southbound lane,” he said.

A Toyota Prado was travelling in the opposite direction and hit the Land Cruiser, which had become separated from the caravan. The Land Cruiser rolled and ended up next to a creek.

The cattle truck continued along its path and hit the detached caravan, which hit the back of the iron-ore truck and exploded.

Both the cattle truck and the Land Cruiser came to a rest on the opposite side of the highway.

“Despite airbags (being) deployed, Mark and Lara Dawson suffered catastrophic injuries,” the prosecutor said.

Jack and Larrisa Dawson were able to climb out of the Land Cruiser to safety.

Defence lawyer Sam Vandongen said De Pledge was a well-known local whose family owned two pastoral stations.

He had been heading from Hooley Station towards Broome with a truck loaded with 180 head of cattle for export in Broome.

The trial, before Justice Amanda Burrows and a jury of three women and 10 men, continues.