Indian national Jaskaran Singh, 19, the driver who crashed his Toyota Camry into four people and killed Kiama teenager Libby Ruge in 2020, was found guilty of all charges in the Wollongong District Court, New South Wales on Friday.
Jaskaran had pleaded not guilty to three counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and grievous bodily harm, and not rendering assistance as a driver.
The incident occurred on Saturday, November 7, 2020, at around 10.30 pm, when Singh drove into four people, seriously injuring Eva Harrison and Tye West and killing 19-year-old Libby Ruge.
The seven men and five women jury found Singh guilty of all four charges. The hearing went on for four days, but it took less than two hours for the jury to reach their verdict. Date for sentencing will be set on Monday at the Wollongong District Court.
Crown prosecutor Nerissa Keay had said Jaskaran Singh was driving recklessly before the crash which was corroborated by a passenger of the car involved in the accident. Nilesh Mishra, 37, who was a rear-seat passenger at the time of the crash gave evidence in court saying he had asked the driver to “drive safely” before the tragedy happened.
Mr Mishra who is studying at the University of Wollongong, worked at a car wash. He said he went to a party at his colleague Mr Arpan Sharma’s house on the evening of November 7, 2020. There he met Jaskaran Singh briefly and was offered a lift back to his student campus accommodation by his host, Sharma.
However, it was Jaskaran Singh who drove the car while Sharma took the passenger seat. Mishra felt the car skid several times during the journey and told the court, “Arpan’s hand was on the handbrake, and I felt a skidding”.
“They were playing loud Punjabi music,” he told the court, adding, “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 said he was worried about the way the Toyota Camry was being driven.
“I was very uncomfortable during the trip because he is not a good driver,” he said.
He told the court that he did ask them to drive safely but Sharma asked him not to worry. Next thing he saw were four pedestrians walking on the pavement as the car turned into Flinders Street.
“I felt skidding again, that was the worst one,” Mishra said. “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.”
Nilesh saw the driver Jaskaran Singh get out of the car and run away as the car started filling up with smoke.
“He saw the people and turned around and ran away,” he said.
The court also viewed police bodycam footage that was recorded after the crash took place. Interestingly, Sharma told the officer questioning him that he had consumed “three or four shots” but Jaskaran had not consumed any alcohol.