A crane driver who ploughed into a tradie fixing a load on the side of a busy Melbourne freeway has been cleared of dangerous driving causing death.
It took jurors less than an hour to find Matthew Eccles not guilty in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Friday over the fatal crash that killed 34-year-old Joseph Hrin in September 2018.
Mr Eccles was behind the wheel of a crane when he stuck Mr Hrin, who stopped in the emergency lane with a colleague to secure their truck’s load.
He did not dispute he was driving and fatally hit the truckie, but argued he was not driving dangerously.
At the time of the crash, Mr Hrin and his colleague Enok Sunthang stopped in the emergency lane to secure a loose load on their truck.
The jurors were told the pair had switched on their hazard lights and were wearing high-vis clothing.
It was alleged Mr Eccles drove the crane into the emergency lane and crashed into the truck, leading to Mr Hrin’s death.
But defence lawyer Jason Gullaci, Mr Eccles’ defence barrister, urged the jury to keep an open mind about the evidence during his openings.
“The question for you to resolve is was Mr Eccles’ driving dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case?” he asked them.
He also told jurors Mr Eccles was “under a bit of pressure” when answering police questions in an interview and made comments that could be considered distasteful, but urged them not to judge him on that.
“He was answering those questions within hours of this accident, when he knows that he’s killed someone,” Mr Gullaci said.
Instead, the defence lawyer told them to focus on where the truck was parked in the emergency lane at the time of the crash and the size of the lanes along the freeway.
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