20-year-old Tyrell Edwards has been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment over a crash that killed five teenagers who were passengers in his vehicle in south-west Sydney in 2022.

Edwards faced Campbelltown District Court on 1 December 2023 – which happened to be his 20th birthday. He had previously pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death at a speed more than 45km/h over the limit.

He appeared at the judgement in his prison greens and is reported to have kept his head bowed as Judge Christopher O’Brien sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 7 years.

His Honour described it as a “tragic and impossibly sad case” noting that the teenagers’ “deaths were completely avoidable and the responsibility for them lies squarely at the feet of the offender.”

Edwards was travelling at over 115km/h when he lost control of the Nissan Navara ute, which rotated crossing over a lane before heavily impacting with a large tree.

The collision with this tree caused a further rapid rotation resulting in the off side of the vehicle impacting a second tree nearby.

This caused the rear cabin of the vehicle to be torn open, with the rear seat ejected from the vehicle.

Tyrese Bechard, 15, Gabriella McLennan, 15, Summer Williams, 14, and Lily Van de Putte, 14 were all ejected from the rear of the vehicle and located a short distance away from the wreckage.

Antonio Desisto, 16, was trapped wearing his seatbelt in the front passenger seat.

As a result of injuries that they sustained, they were all declared deceased at the scene.

Edwards was taken to hospital after complaining of head and back pain but was discharged without any major issues.

At the time of the crash, Edwards was aged 18 and had a provisional driver licence.

Snapchats taken before the incident revealed that Edwards had been speeding a majority of the journey, with either Tyrese Bechard or Antonio Desisto yelling “we’re going to spin out cuz”.

It was also stated that videos depicted the ute reaching speeds of 147km/h, with the vehicle also swerving from side to side.

After the crash, Edwards was able to push the windscreen out and climb from the vehicle, with witnesses reporting that he repeatedly stated: “I’m gonna go to jail, I can’t go to jail, I don’t want to go to jail”.

Ultimately, his sentence was backdated to 12 July 2023 to account for time already served, indicating that he will be eligible for parole in July 2030.


What is the Offence of ‘Aggravated Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death’?

Section 52A(2) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) criminalises committing dangerous driving occasioning death, in circumstances of aggravation.

A maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment is applicable.

The prosecution is required to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that:

  1. You drove your vehicle which was involved in an impact occasioning the death of another person,
  2. At the time of the impact, you were driving (i) under the influence of alcohol or drugs, (ii) at a dangerous speed or (iii) in a manner dangerous to another person or persons, and
  3. A circumstance of aggravation existed.

Circumstances of aggravation include where:

  • Your blood alcohol content was over 0.15,
  • You were driving 45km/h or more over the speed limit,
  • You were driving the vehicle to escape pursuit by a police officer, or
  • Your ability to drive was very substantially impaired by being under the influence of a drug (other than alcohol) or a combination of drugs.

Where there is no aggravating circumstance, the applicable offence is ‘dangerous driving occasioning death’ under section 52A(1), which carries a lesser maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

A vehicle will be deemed to have been involved in an impact occasioning death including in circumstances where the death of a passenger occurs following a vehicle overturning, leaving a road, colliding with an object, or being thrown or ejected from the vehicle.

Objects may include an animal, building, structure, earthwork, embankment, gutter, stormwater channel, drain, bridge, culvert, median strip, post, or tree.

It also includes circumstances in which a death occurs due to an impact between the person and the vehicle, and the impact of the vehicle with another vehicle.

The Court of Criminal Appeal has developed a ‘guideline judgement’ for cases of dangerous driving within R v Whyte (2002) 55 NSWLR 252.

A ‘guideline judgement’ is essentially a decision by the court which provides Judges or Magistrates guidance in relation to how they should sentence offenders.

They seek to reduce inconsistency and assist in making sure like cases are treated alike.

The judgement provides that a frequently recurring case of ‘dangerous driving occasioning death’ will involve a young offender, of good character, with no or limited prior convictions, resulting in the death of a single person who is a stranger to the offender.

It also is stated to involve no or limited injury to the driver themselves and genuine remorse.

The guideline judgment identifies a series of aggravating factors including:

  • Extent and nature of the injuries inflicted.
  • Number of people put at risk.
  • Degree of speed.
  • Degree of intoxication or of substance abuse.
  • Erratic or aggressive driving.
  • Competitive driving or showing off.
  • Length of the journey during which others were exposed to risk.
  • Ignoring of warnings.
  • Escaping police pursuit.
  • Degree of sleep deprivation.
  • Failing to stop.

In a typical case which is not ‘aggravated’, it is prescribed that, where the offender’s moral culpability is high, a full-time custodial head sentence of less than three years would not generally be appropriate.

For the aggravated version of the offence, an appropriate increment is required. It is also noted that other factors, such as the number of victims, will also require an appropriate increment.

Published on 11/12/2023

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AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

View all posts by Poppy Morandin