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Guilt for wife's death 'enough'

Matthew Reibelt lost his wife in this fatal crash on the Warrego Highway on April 21, 2010.
Matthew Reibelt lost his wife in this fatal crash on the Warrego Highway on April 21, 2010. File

A MAGISTRATE has shown sympathy for a man who accidentally killed his wife in a horrific highway crash.

Matthew Victor Reibelt was yesterday fined only $700 for driving without due care and attention because he had “suffered enough”, according to Magistrate Bruce Schemioneck.

Gatton Magistrates Court was told Reibelt, 39, was driving along the Warrego Highway at Hatton Vale on April 21 last year with his wife Amanda and three-year-old daughter, when he lost control of their family car while adjusting the vehicle's cruise control.

Reibelt veered into the left lane and then hit a cement culvert at the intersection with Habban Road.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Karen Hall said the impact of the collision forced the car to flip onto its roof.

Reibelt was able to free himself and his daughter, who was sitting in the back seat, from the wreckage, but his wife, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, was trapped.

Witnesses who saw the crash tried in vain to help free the woman.

Firefighters were forced to use hydraulic equipment to cut her free but she died at the scene from “severe injuries”.

Snr Const Hall said Reibelt later admitted to police he had shown a “lack of attention” while driving, and due to adjusting his cruise control failed to negotiate a slight right-hand bend in the road.

A police inspection of the vehicle also revealed the car's left hand front tyre was in an unsatisfactory condition while the car's rear tyres were in “dangerous condition”.

Defence lawyer Kenneth Parry described the crash as a “tragic accident”.

“He has been left as the sole carer for his daughter and also suffered a compression fracture to his spine and as a result has trouble walking,” Mr Parry said.

Since the crash, Reibelt has moved to a remote town near Coffs Harbour to be closer to his extended family, Mr Parry told the court.

“You have to live for the rest of your life with the fact that your wife died as a result of this accident,” Mr Schemioneck said.

“Due to your limited traffic history and horrific circumstances no conviction will be recorded.

“Just take a little bit of care when you are on the road.”

Reibelt was given four months to pay the $700 fine. No action was taken against his licence.


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