COURT: Fatigue caused horror crash that killed colleague
HE was turning his life around after a 20-year drug habit when he fell asleep behind the wheel driving home from work, killing one passenger and maiming the other.
Peter Matthias William Hills, 41, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing causing death and grievous bodily harm in the Rockhampton District Court today.
On Monday, August 10, 2015, Hills was driving himself and two others home from work at the Port Alma salt flats when he fell asleep behind the wheel, crashing the car into a pole.
"This was on a straight stretch of road," Judge Michael Burnett noted.
"These sorts of roads invite fatigue drivers into a stupor."
The crash killed Neil Bulley, 47, and seriously injured Dayne Ladbrook, 24 at the time, who has since had his left arm and left leg amputated and suffered a head injury that now causes him issues daily.
READ HOW DAYNE LADBROOK IS THESE DAYS TOMORROW ONLINE
Mr Bulley had been lying down on the back seat, not wearing a seatbelt, at the time of the crash. Mr Ladbrook was in the front passenger seat.
The court heard Hills had speed and cannabis in his system after smoking the drugs four days before the crash but they were not deemed the cause of the crash.
The crash was witnessed by man who Hills ran to afterwards, asking for help and saying 'I f--ked up. I f--ked up. I had a big weekend.'
Defence barrister Maree Willey said leading up to the crash, the workers at the salt flats were on three-week rosters where they would work 10-hour night shifts for three weeks, have a weekend off, then do three-weeks of day shifts, working nine-hour shifts.
She said Hills would spend 1.5 hours driving to work, picking up three other workers in North Rockhampton, Wandal and Gracemere.
He'd then do the nine-hour shift before driving them home again.
Hills was also undertaking an engineering degree part-time through CQUniversity and he'd had an assignment due that weekend before the crash.
Ms Willey said Hills started smoking cannabis when he was 13 and took his first intravenous drug on his 17th birthday.
He left school mid Year 11 and worked for his father's company until he was 28. That's when his family cut him off due to his drug taking and offending.
Three years later, he was unemployed and regularly appearing in court for drug offences.
In 2010, served seven months in jail for production a schedule one drug.
He was sentenced again in 2013 for other drug matters and in 2014, moved to Rockhampton where he only knew one other person and that person had no drug associations.
He also mended his relationship with his family and his father was in court in support today.
Ms Willey said Hills raised fatigue issues with his supervisor three times between January 2015 and the day of the crash but no changes had been made.
The court heard the company did make changes to the roster system after the crash.
Hills and Mr Ladbroke still work for the company.
Judge Burnett said it was a double-edged sword in that he knew he had 12-hour days with not resting and Hills should have ensured he spent the remaining 12-hours resting to decrease the risks.
Hills received a head sentence of three-years jail, suspended after nine-months and operational for 3.5 years.
Judge Burnett took into account Hills' continued high marks at uni and high praises of work ethic when sentencing him.