FATAL CRASH: Leona Pauline Paraha (left), 69, fatally injured Olivia Douglas (centre), 8, and Shane Old (right), 52, when she veered into oncoming traffic on the Bruce Highway south of Childers.
FATAL CRASH: Leona Pauline Paraha (left), 69, fatally injured Olivia Douglas (centre), 8, and Shane Old (right), 52, when she veered into oncoming traffic on the Bruce Highway south of Childers. contributed

Driver walks free after causing death of girl and man

A GRANDMOTHER whose inattention while driving killed two people has avoided jail time, while the victims' families have expressed their disappointment at the sentence.

Eight-year-old Olivia Douglas and 52-year-old Shane Old died in September last year, after Leona Pauline Paraha, 69, who said she remembers yawning and speaking to her husband via Bluetooth before veering across the centre line and into Mr Old's ute.

It was about 1pm on September 14 and Paraha was driving in a convoy including Olivia's parents from the Gold Coast to Bundaberg for a youth netball carnival.

Yesterday Magistrate Terry Duroux sentenced Paraha to five months' imprisonment wholly suspended with an operational period of two years and disqualified her from holding or obtaining a licence for 12 months.

Following the sentence Olivia's family said, while they did not have any expectations, they thought justice had not been served.

"We were told very early on not to expect justice out of this," Olivia's step-father, Tim Stark, said.

"Those words hit home just then."

"You can't help but be disappointed still," Olivia's mother, Tegan Mitchell, said.

Mr Old's step-father Kevin Tyson said while nothing could bring Shane back, there were no winners in such a situation.

"We've all lost terribly. We're suffering, she's suffering, but life's got to go on. Both families are devastated," he said.

"You can see by this tragic accident that she should have pulled over and rested or got another driver.

Paraha said she thought of Mr Old and Olivia every day.

"All I can say is how terribly sorry I am that this tragic thing happened," she said.

"I treated Livvy, I knew her, I taught her, I loved her.

"There's nothing I can say or do to bring (them) back. What can you do or say but learn from the lesson today, to go forward, to live your life for them."

On February 22, Paraha pleaded guilty in Childers to one charge of driving without due care and attention causing death before being sentenced in Bundaberg yesterday.

There wasn't a dry eye as the court heard how Olivia and Mr Old had their lives tragically cut short.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Grant Klaassen said road conditions did not offer any explanation as to why the crash occurred.

"An examination of the roadway at the location revealed no potholes, defects or debris," Sgt Klaassen said.

"The atmospheric conditions at the time of the incident were fine and clear, the roadway was dry, and visibility in both directions was good."

The court was told Paraha had become tired and began to yawn so her husband of 45 years phoned her via the Bluetooth function in her vehicle while her granddaughter and Olivia were watching a movie on a tablet in the back.

"She stated she was driving along and then bang, there was a car ahead of her," Sgt Klaassen said.

It it believed Paraha's north-bound car came to rest in the southbound lane after hitting Mr Old's ute and pushing it about 1.8m off the highway.

"There was no evidence located on the roadway to indicate the defendant applied her brakes prior to the collision," Sgt Klaassen said.

"Because of the collision the child passenger, Olivia Douglas who was eight years old, and the driver of vehicle two, Shane Old who was 52 years old, both died instantly of their injuries sustained in the collision."

Paraha and her granddaughter, who was sitting in the back left passenger seat, were taken to hospital and both survived.

Defence lawyer Marcin Lazinski said his client had no criminal history, limited traffic history and was a good member of society whose short period of inattention had devastating consequences.

"Of course the impacts on my client pale in significance to the true horror that's been experienced by the members of the families of Olivia Douglas and Shane Old," Mr Lazinski said.

"My client can't begin to express her apologies, this has had a huge impact on her life and she has to live with this for the rest of her life.

"Her actions have not only caused the death of two people, but she has also robbed two families of precious memories and obviously future moments.

"It really is a horrific case, and it is a reminder of what short periods of inattention... can have."

Mr Lazinski said alcohol, speeding and drugs were not involved in the offence.

"There was some frank admissions that perhaps she was a little tired at the time, but her manner of driving was otherwise unremarkable," he said.

A psychologist's report stated Paraha would be forever burdened by the tragedy and said she had been attending weekly counselling to address her grief and shame.

After reading through the material before him and taking a 20-minute break to consider the facts, Magistrate Terry Duroux began his sentence.

"I can't even begin to imagine the unimaginable pain and horror they went through as a result of what occurred," he said.

"You started to yawn ... you should have done something else. You should have stopped. You should have rested."

Mr Duroux said, other than the crash, he understood Paraha to be very well regarded in the community.

"I accept without any hesitation that you have also suffered in this tragedy," he said.



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