'I remember my wife's screams when we learned she was dead'
THE truck driver who ran a red light and killed a young woman "in the prime of her life" has been jailed for at least 18 months.
David William Grice, 60, pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous occasioning death after he drove through a red light at an intersection at Caringbah, in Sydney's south, in November 2016 and knocked down Danielle McGrath.
Ms McGrath, 26, was killed instantly. Her devastated partner Aaron Roberts arrived soon after and found her handbag and belongings strewn across the road and her body covered by a sheet.
Grice was today sentenced to 31-and-a-half months in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 months.
The Sydney District Court heard the pedestrian light had gone green and Ms McGrath should have been able to make it across safely.
She was not at fault and had no warning a 48-tonne truck laden with soil was approaching from behind her.
Judge Peter Maiden told a courtroom packed with Ms McGrath's family and Grice's supporters that dashcam footage captured her walking quickly toward the centre of the road, where she could be "clearly seen" at the median strip.
"Shortly after this [was] the impact - the side of the truck at a point some distance behind the driver's door came into contact with Ms McGrath. She was thrown to the ground and the truck proceeded to crush her."
Her family started to cry as they listened to the harrowing details of her final moments and a court officer handed Mr Roberts water and tissues.
They wept softly as Judge Maiden described how Ms McGrath was acting "appropriately" and "no doubt concentrating" as she walked over the pedestrian crossing "not aware of the truck coming from her rear and left."
He said after viewing the dashcam footage, he didn't consider excess speed was a factor in the tragedy, but said it was the "driver's duty" to make sure there was no one to his right before he attempted to turn.
Grice said he was focused on vehicles heading towards him and admitted not checking to his right, but denied being distracted.
"I had just decide it was safe to continue and focused on cars coming towards me ... I was conscious of that and focused on that."
Judge Maiden said Grice's evidence confirmed the charge that he didn't see the red arrow and failed to keep a lookout to his right as he started to turn.
He noted Grice had not sought to come up with an explanation to help his situation and had given consistent evidence.
Despite an absence of aggravating factors, Judge Maiden said the moral culpability was higher than momentary inattention, noting he had "seven seconds" to look around and make sure it was safe to proceed.
"This was a very difficult intersection and it required drivers to be vigilant," he said.
"Not only of other vehicles coming into the intersection but … to give a good lookout for pedestrians particularly in an area where it would be expected that people would be going to the railways station and to the nearby school."
Judge Maiden granted Grice 25 per cent discount on his sentence because he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, had no criminal history and was unlikely to reoffend.
Since Ms McGrath's death he had been experiencing panic attacks, anxiety and signs of post-traumatic stress.
The judge said: "He is a person of good character and would appear ordinarily to be a good person of caution and responsibility."
Grice parked the truck after the collision and he and others rushed to Ms McGrath's aid. Her injuries were so severe she died at the scene.
The judge described the haunting moment Mr Roberts arrived and saw the body of his partner of six years on the road.
"It was distressing to those in the courtroom who saw these images, in particular to Mr Roberts and Ms McGrath's family … their dignity … is to be admired by this court."
The loss of a young woman in the "prime of her life" would never go away, he said.
As her father Bill McGrath left court surrounded by his family, his thoughts were with his dead daughter. "We are just happy Danielle had her day in court," he said, holding his wife's hand as they left court.
He said Ms McGrath had been much loved and the sentencing of the man who killed her had been emotional day for the family.
Grice will be eligible for parole in August, 2019.
During Grice's sentencing hearing last week, Mr Roberts told how he was planning to surprise his partner by asking her to marry him.
Instead, he placed a diamond ring on finger at her funeral, two weeks after she was killed.
"I lost the brightest part of my day, my best friend and my future wife," an emotional Mr Roberts said as he read his victim impact statement to the court.
He said he would never forget the face of the police officer who confirmed to him it was her.
Ms McGrath's father, Bill, said he would never forget his wife's screams when Mr Roberts called to tell them their daughter was dead.
"Every day since, my wife cries herself to sleep and wakes up the same," Mr McGrath said.
"She sleeps with a piece of Danielle's clothing under her head for comfort." He said it was incredible to witness Mr Roberts putting a ring on his daughter's finger at her funeral but also unbearable to see the young man go through so much pain.
In an apology letter he read to the court, Grice said he couldn't change what had happened and he was "terribly, terribly sorry".
"I am grieved to the depths of my being knowing that I am responsible for taking a precious girl from you," he said.
"My heart is crushed. I'm devastated that my judgment has done so much damage to so many people and lives."
Grice, under questioning from his lawyer, said he didn't see the red arrow signal when he turned at the intersection but he accepted after watching dashcam footage that it was clearly visible on the screen.
He said he didn't check the pedestrian crossing before turning because he was focused on other vehicles on the road.
The dashcam captured his horrified screams as he realised what happened.
"I am grieved to the depths of my being knowing that I am responsible for taking a precious girl from you," Grice's apology letter said.