Calvin Zhou and Grace Cai who were killed when a man smashed into the back of their car on Ruthven St.
Calvin Zhou and Grace Cai who were killed when a man smashed into the back of their car on Ruthven St. Photo contributed

Driver who killed Chinese couple was drunk

THE man responsible for one of Toowoomba's worst ever traffic crashes which claimed the lives of a young, newly wed couple could walk free from jail as early as next year.

Ricky Shane Prins, 30, had been drunk, speeding and unlicensed when his Toyota Camry sedan ploughed into the Holden Barina of Chinese nationals Calvin Zhou and Grace Cai at the corner of Ruthven and Alderley Sts just before 5am on Australia Day last year.

Crown prosecutor Ron Swanwick told the court CCTV footage showed the couple's car enter the Hungry Jacks' drive-through on the same corner just minutes before the tragedy.

Because the take-away was closed, Mr Zhou drove out on to Alderley St before turning right into Ruthven St to head south.

Moments earlier, another CCTV camera captured Prins' car leaving the Gladstone Hotel car park and heading south on Ruthven St.

Police estimated Prins to have been driving at 139kmh in the 60kmh zone when his car ploughed into the rear of the couple's car forcing it left across Ruthven St into a tree.

Prins' car was flipped onto its roof after it struck the same tree.

Mr Swanwick said a witness to the crash raced to the couple's car to find both of them already dead, still in their seat belts, slumped over with their heads together.

He then went to Prins' car.

Finding him conscious, the witness asked Prins if he was drunk and replied that he was. A subsequent blood test showed Prins had a blood/alcohol level of 0.145 at the time.

Eventually cut from the car, Prins was heard to say: "I really f***ed up this time. I've learnt my lesson this time", Mr Swanwick said.

Because of China's one child policy, both deceased were only children.

Their parents had saved up money to send them to the University of Southern Queensland where both completed degrees.

The couple had fallen in love with Toowoomba and planned on bringing their parents here to look after them in their old age, which is the custom in China, and to start a family, Mr Swanwick said.

He said Prins had offending history in four states including 36 traffic related offences in his native Tasmania.

Prins' barrister Frank Martin said his client moved to Queensland to turn his life around and was working as a furniture removalist at the time.

His client could not remember anything of the crash, but recalled drinking heavily at the Gladstone Hotel.

His client lived only 500m from the hotel and couldn't understand why he had been driving or why he had been driving in that direction.

Prins was remorseful and had written a letter of apology to the deceased's parents, Mr Martin said.

Judge Hugh Botting declared the 381 days Prins had spent in custody since the crash as time served under the term and sentenced him to eight years jail, but recommended he be eligible to apply for release on parole as of September 27 next year.

He was disqualified from driving absolutely.


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