No jail for Wangaratta’s mother who killed two motorsports enthusiasts in horror crash

A Victorian woman who killed two men when she rammed their car after being distracted while driving has escaped jail time.

Wangaratta’s mother, Jodie Ann Contacolli, 46, appeared by video link in Wangaratta County Court on Friday and pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving that caused the deaths of Jamie Drummond, 64, and Peter Turner, 77 years, in 2020.

Contacolli cried when Judge Michael Cahill read a sentence of 300 hours of community service over three years.

His driver’s license will also be canceled for 18 months.

The judge said that if she had not pleaded guilty, Contacolli would have been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison with a period without parole of one year and four months.

“Taking human life by dangerously operating a vehicle is a serious crime,” Judge Cahill said.

“In your case, two innocent people died.

Motorsport enthusiasts killed instantly

Mr Drummond and Mr Turner were testing a vintage Holden FJ sedan on June 13, 2020, when Contacolli crashed into the back of the car, killing them instantly.

The pair had slowed the car to turn into an airport at Laceby around 9.50am when Contacolli slammed into the car at 100mph.

The court heard that Mr Drummond’s son, Trevor Drummond, was waiting at the airport gate for his father and Mr Turner when the accident happened.

Jodie Ann Contacolli pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing death.(ABC News)

He told investigators he did not see Contacolli’s car slowing down and thought there must be a passing lane.

She was driving to pick up her mother for groceries, and her two-year-old daughter was in the back seat.

Contacolli said she glanced in the rearview mirror to look at her daughter when the accident happened.

“They were right there”

Distraught after the crash, Contacolli told witnesses she looked up and “they were right there.”

She said it “happened very quickly” and she was distracted by her young daughter.

Contacolli later told police she noticed a car in the distance, but couldn’t remember how far away it was and couldn’t remember if she had braked before the accident happened. occur.

Crash reconstructions estimated that the mother could have taken her eyes off the road for 1.4 to 14 seconds.

But the court heard, based on testimony, it was likely “closer to a lower figure”.

Families are suffering intense grief after the crash

Judge Cahill said the families of the victims suffered “intense sadness, loss and grief” as a result of the accident.

He said Mr Drummond’s daughter, Emma, ​​was a peri-operative nurse and that treating traffic injury victims had triggered “intense and painful thoughts” about her father’s death.

Meanwhile, her son, Trevor, works at the airport near the crash site and said the constant reminder of that traumatic day “takes its toll”.

A man is sitting in front of a car
Motorsport enthusiast Peter Turner, 77, was killed while driving a vintage car.(Provided: Facebook)

Mr Turner’s daughter, Jenny, said her father was a legend in the motorsport community, and a great father and storyteller.

She acknowledged that Contacolli’s decision to take her eyes off the road was “maybe something we all did” – but said it was a decision that deprived both families of their loved ones.

The judge satisfied the grounds for a lighter sentence

Judge Cahill said Contacolli was referred for psychological care after the accident and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He said psychologists said Contacolli was “extremely aware” she was responsible for the accident and felt genuine remorse for her role in the deaths of two people.

The court heard that Contacolli was also a carer for her mother, who suffered from dementia praecox and was rapidly declining, as well as the primary carer for her young daughter.

Judge Cahill said that while the prosecution did not dispute her diagnosis of PTSD, they claimed immediate custody was necessary for just punishment.

But in handing down her sentence, the judge said he was confident there were compelling reasons why Contacolli should not be jailed, including her mental health and the impact any custodial sentence would have on her family.

He said the lack of previous convictions and his genuine remorse also contributed to his ordering a lighter sentence.

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