A probationary driver who killed five teenage school friends when he crashed a speeding ute will spend at least seven years in jail, a sentence described as “absolutely disgusting” by relatives outside court.
Scoffs came from the public gallery while others broke into tears as Judge Christopher O’Brien announced the seven-year non-parole period on a 12-year sentence for Tyrell Edwards.
The high-speed crash he caused killed Antonio Desisto, Gabby McLennan, Tyrese Bechard, Lily Van de Putte and Summer Williams.
Lily Van De Putte (14), Summer Williams (14), Antonio Desisto (16), Gabriella McLennan (15) and Tyrese Bechard (15) all died. Photos: Supplied
“I’m gonna go to jail,” Edwards was heard saying after climbing from the wreckage of a Nissan Navara that crashed into two trees and killed the Picton High School students south-west of Sydney in September 2022.
“I can’t go to jail. I don’t want to go to jail,” Edwards said.
Leaving court, Gabby McLennan’s mother Samantha told media her heart dropped when she heard the “unfair” sentence.
Antonio Desisto’s father Exaven said the sentence “stinks” and he would not wish the same agony on any parent.
“We’ve got children who have passed away, our family who don’t get to have kids … we’re the ones who get the life sentence now so it’s just absolutely disgusting,” he said.
Family members gave the court an idea of their devastating loss at Edwards’ sentencing hearing in November.
The judge said he considered their statements, including those bravely read to the court, as powerful expressions of their grief and emotional torment.
Some offered forgiveness, while others said it would never come and called for Edwards to receive a lengthy sentence.
Family again filled the NSW District Court at Campbelltown as Judge O’Brien sentenced Edwards on Friday.
“This is a tragic and impossibly sad case,” the judge said, beginning his sentencing remarks as some onlookers wiped away tears.
Edwards in August pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death, which entitled him to a 25 per cent discount on his sentence.
The judge also found special circumstances for a lengthier parole period.
Lily Van de Putte’s father John said the judge was guided by legislation and he was not surprised by the seven-year minimum sentence after talking to victim support groups.
“Some people want him dead, other people don’t. I can see both sides. I’ve lost my daughter. She’ll never come back,” he said, calling for law reform.
He said he could not forgive Edwards but had sympathy for him and his family.
“They weren’t the ones driving the vehicle … he needs to be held responsible for that,” he said.
Edwards sped to overtake another car on the wrong side of the road and was travelling at about 118km/h when he crashed on East Parade at Buxton about 7.50pm on September 6, 2022.
The dual-cab ute hit a tree, rebounded and slammed into another, tearing open the rear cabin and ejecting four of the teenagers.
The teens killed in the crash at Buxton were aged between 14 and 16.
“Their deaths were completely avoidable and responsibility for them lies squarely at the feet of the offender,” the judge said.
Edwards had fully accepted responsibility and expressed true and deep remorse, the judge said.
He quoted from a statement Edwards gave to the court expressing his regret.
“I can’t understand how unfair it is that I survived,” Edwards wrote.
Edwards was sentenced to 12 years in jail with a non-parole period of seven years on Friday, his 20th birthday.
His sentence was backdated to July 12 to account for time already spent in custody and he will be eligible for release on parole from July 11, 2030.
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