Survivor defends fatal car driver

Dom Hodal leaves the Toowoomba court yesterday.
Dom Hodal leaves the Toowoomba court yesterday. Beverley Lacey

A FRONT seat passenger who survived an horrific car crash which left three teenagers dead has told a Toowoomba court that driver Dominic Anthony Joseph Hodal had been driving responsibly in the lead-up to the crash.

Hodal, 18, was driving a 1989 Ford Fairlane sedan from Highfields to Toowoomba on the night of Saturday, May 2, last year, when the car went out of control and crossed into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Three of Hodal’s Downlands College school mates, William Hutchison, 16, Hamish Stewart, 17, and Henry Keevers, 16, died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash while teenagers Tim Coonan and Nicholas Bergen sustained serious injuries.

The car was overloaded with seven teenage boys including two who were in the boot at the time of the crash.

Hodal is charged with five counts of dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm.

He has not been required to enter any pleas to the charges.

On the first day of Hodal’s committal hearing yesterday, front seat passenger Lech Blaine, 18, told Toowoomba Magistrates Court a group of seven boys and three girls had met at Henry Keevers’ Highfields home that afternoon for a barbecue.

Though some of the boys had been drinking alcohol, Hodal had not as he was the designated driver, he said.

Under cross examination by Hodal’s barrister Jeff Hunter SC, other teenagers who were at the gathering that afternoon, including Tamara Haydock, Nikita Kohler and Rhiannin Trace, all agreed that Hodal had not been drinking at the Highfields gathering.

Nicholas Bergen said he could remember nothing of events leading up to the accident except for playing rugby earlier that day.

He told the court he had been a passenger in cars driven by Hodal before and had always found him to be “a good driver”.

Rhiannin Trace, who was driving Tamara Haydock and Nikita Kohler that day, said they had left before the boys’ group and that some of the boys had asked for a lift back to Toowoomba.

However, because the girls were going to Gowrie Junction they had left the boys at Highfields.

Lech Blaine said he could not recall any talk of anyone getting into the car’s boot and didn’t see anyone do so.

He became aware of someone in the boot as they were leaving and during the drive those in the boot had waved their hands into the back seat, he said.

After the crash, he had seen mobile phone video of the group in the car during which some of the boys were singing.

That video footage, about 30 seconds in length, stopped shortly before the crash, he said.

He said he had racked his mind to work out why the car had gone out of control as it did but he could not recall anything to suggest the reason.

Police mechanic Sergeant Bradley Dieckmann examined the car after the crash and told the court Hodal’s Fairlane appeared to have been in good mechanical order before the crash and no defects were found.

The committal hearing continues this afternoon.

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