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Vic: Driver tells of violent impact in tunnel crash

By Melissa Iaria
Fri Jul 17 19:34:46 EST 2009

MELBOURNE, July 17 AAP - Truck driver David Kalwig began braking as soon as he entered the Burnley tunnel before sparking the chain of fiery collisions which killed three people, a court has heard.

Kalwig has pleaded not guilty in the Victorian Supreme Court to three counts of culpable driving.

The crown alleges Kalwig, 44, of Hoppers Crossing, failed to keep a proper lookout and failed to see a broken down truck in the left lane of the busy Melbourne tunnel on the morning of March 23, 2007.

They allege he rapidly changed lanes, sideswiping a car and causing the chain of collisions.

Another truck driver, Wayne Elliott, told the court Kalwig got out of his truck after the crash and was swearing.

"He had his hands on his head ... and was cursing," he said on Friday.

"I said: `What the hell just happened?

"He pointed to the entrance of the tunnel and said: `I started braking way back there'.

"He said: `How am I going to explain this to my boss?'"

Mr Elliott said he remembered vehicles braking in front of him and then being side-swiped by Kalwig's truck.

"It was heavy enough to push me into the concrete wall," he said.

Mr Elliott said a white car then speared in front of him and reversed into the tunnel wall.

He braked heavily and hit a car.

He then saw a vehicle crushed between two trucks, an explosion and tyres popping.

The jury heard truck driver Chris Lloyd told police Kalwig's truck was "flying" compared to the speed he was travelling.

"I thought he had me. I couldn't believe he missed the back of my truck," he said in his statement.

Witness Kate McBeth told the court she was driving in the tunnel when she saw the stationary truck in the left lane.

Ms McBeth gave evidence that an announcement over her car radio from tunnel managers CityLink informed drivers that the left lane was closed.

But before the announcement ended, there was a sudden, severe impact to the back of her Subaru.

"It was so violent, my hands flew off the steering wheel," the solicitor said.

"I remember that huge force I had no warning about.

"I had no idea what hit me.

"The back of my station wagon was essentially in the back seat of my car."

Ms McBeth said the front of her vehicle then hit the underside of a semi trailer's petrol tank.

She was hit again, with the impact sending her car into a spin and then crashing into the tunnel wall.

Ms McBeth said she was hit about five times and she was forced to climb out of her car through a broken window to escape a fire sparked by the crash.

The trial continues on Monday.