Indian national Jaskaran Singh, 19-year-old, has been found guilty in Wollongong District Court to a count of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.
According to media reports, Crown prosecutor Nerissa Keay told the court that Jaskaran Singh was driving a Toyota Camry recklessly on November 7, 2020. This caused a crash that killed Ms Libby Ruge and seriously injured Eva Harrison and Tye West.
Defence barrister Ben Hart had observed that the front-seat passenger Arpan Sharma, 21-year-old, was in control of the vehicle.
The court also heard evidence from Nilesh Mishra, 37 -year-old, who was a rear-seat passenger at the time of the crash. Nilesh worked with Arpan at a car wash while studying at the University of Wollongong.
Nilesh told the court that he went to a party at his colleague’s house on the evening of the crash and only briefly met Jaskaran at the party. Soon, Arpan offered to give him a lift back to student accommodation on campus. The court was told that Arpan sat in the passenger seat while Jaskaran drove the car.
Further, Nilesh told the court that shortly after leaving the party he felt the car skid while overtaking another car on Burelli Street. He said, “Arpan’s hand was on the handbrake, and I felt a skidding.”
The court was told that the car skidded a second time outside the Hotel Illawarra. Nilesh said, “They were playing loud Punjabi music. … He opened the window he was playing loud music and he was yelling at people outside who were just waiting to cross the road… it was very disrespectful.”
Nilesh added that he was concerned about the way the vehicle was being driven. He told the court, “I was very uncomfortable during the trip because he is not a good driver. I said ‘what are you guys doing? Drive safely.”
Nilesh was told by Arpan not to worry. Soon, he noticed four pedestrians walking on the footpath who appeared “very happy”. Nilesh once again felt the car skid as it turned onto Flinders Street. He said, “I felt skidding again, that was the worst one. I heard a screeching noise for three to four seconds and I felt the back of the car go sideways. It went on to the footpath and I heard a bang… it hit a pole and ran into the pedestrians.”
The car mounted the kerb and crashed into the three pedestrians on the footpath outside the Collegians Rugby League Club.
Nilesh told the court that the car filled up with smoke after the crash. Then he saw Jaskaran leave the scene when he got out of the car. He said, “He saw the people and turned around and ran away.”
Police Sergeant David Weaver told the court they had a strong case based on the people who witnessed the crash and CCTV footage. The court was also shown police bodycam footage recorded in the aftermath of the crash. This footage clearly showed Arpan being asked to describe what had occurred. Arpan said, “I think he don’t know how to drive or something.”
Arpan also told the officer that he had consumed “three or four shots” but Jaskaran had not consumed any alcohol.
Jaskaran Singh and Arpan Sharma had both pleaded not guilty to driving dangerously and causing a fatal crash. Jaskaran had also pleaded not guilty to an additional charge of failing to stop and assist after a crash causing death.
Prosecutor Nerissa Keay told the court and jury in the closing remarks that how this crash could have been avoided if Jaskaran Singh could have acted within just two seconds to stop the car and avoid killing Libby Ruge.
In a statement to the media, the family offered thanks for the love and support they have received since Ms Ruge’s death.