Drink-driver jailed for fatal Gunbower crash

A former Rochester man who killed his friend in a car crash at the Gunbower Forest in 2009 has been sentenced to three years and six months’ jail.

Brandon McCraw, 23, was driving his friend home from a day of drinking at a sandbar on the Murray River when he lost control of his ute and crashed into two trees.

Leigh Williams was killed instantly.

Yesterday the Victorian County Court heard McCraw had pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving causing death, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ jail.

McCraw, Mr Williams and most of their friends had been drinking on the Murray River near Leitchville on September 12, 2009.

Judge Lance Pilgrim said McCraw left with Mr Williams while it was still daylight, planning to drop him at his Cohuna home. But about 3.5 kilometres down the bush track McCraw lost control of his vehicle. 

The ute skidded to the side, spun around and crashed into two trees causing “extensive crush damage” on the passenger side.

McCraw was travelling at an estimated speed of 69.5km/h and he had a blood alcohol content of 0.112 per cent.

Mr Williams, who was not wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene. 

McCraw walked two kilometres to a nearby farmhouse to get help and was later flown to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

McCraw has no prior criminal convictions, but Judge Pilgrim said he was concerned that while on bail for this offence McCraw was issued with an infringement for drink-driving.

“You have to learn you must not drink and drive,” he said.

“Young men so often think they’re bullet proof.

“General deterrence is extremely important. 

“Unfortunately the message seems to be falling on deaf ears.

“The media are all speaking of hoon drivers and drink-drivers, but court lists visit such offences day after day.

“This driving has to be denounced in the strongest way.”

Judge Pilgrim said McCraw’s prospect of rehabilitation was “excellent” thanks to the support of his family and friends, as well as his strong work ethic.

The court heard McCraw was a trained fitter and turner, currently working interstate in mining as a welder.

Judge Pilgrim said he had taken this, and the delay in the matter reaching court, into account in sentencing.

McCraw must serve two years before he is eligible for parole, 14 days pre-sentence detention were reckoned as time served.

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