It’s Friday night time and 4 younger associates are out collectively celebrating Schoolies on the beachside city of Goolwa Seashore, south of Adelaide.
It ought to have been simply one other night time of their lengthy lives, but it surely collapsed into tragedy when one of many 4, Charlie Stevens, was killed in an alleged hit-and-run crash.
Charlie was the son of South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens and his demise has shocked the state and solid a fierce torchlight on the grotesque spike in street deaths which have pummelled South Australia throughout 2023.
Charlie’s demise marked the state’s one hundred and first street fatality from 103 in whole as of November 24.
In a heartbreaking letter, Mr Stevens and his spouse Emma paid tribute to their son, addressing him as “101” and celebrating his life whereas demonstrating that behind each street toll statistic lies a full life and a human being beloved by others.
“I’m penning this sitting in a bed room with soiled garments on the ground, an unmade mattress, six consuming glasses lined up on the bedside desk, an empty KFC field subsequent to the glasses, wardrobe doorways left open and a row of skateboards leaning on the wall – it’s a mess and it’s good. That is the place 101 lived,” the parents write.
“101 is Charles Stevens – Charlie, Charlie Boy, Chas, Hyperlinks, Steve. You lived life and gave a lot to so many. You had been a pressure of nature and we are going to always remember your lovely cheeky, disarming smile.
“Son, brother, grandson, uncle, nephew, cousin, associates, workmate, teammate. A lot greater than only a quantity on a tragic tally.”
The sense of grief on the horror of a sudden tragedy placing at a beloved family who’ve given their lives to the providers of others is washing over the nation.
Federal Opposition Chief Peter Dutton has pledged to learn out the Stevens’ letter in parliament to protect it in historical past by means of the Hansard report.
“I, like everybody, you learn it, you understand my youngsters are of an identical age and it actually hits dwelling,” Mr Dutton instructed Melbourne’s 3AW.
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas stated he and his spouse Annabel shed tears studying the emotional letter.
“Right here’s a household that’s grieving, has each motive to be totally devastated and interested by themselves and the way they get by means of it, but what they’re doing is pondering of others,” he stated as his voice began to interrupt.
“Interested by how this tragedy may translate to a lesson for everyone else locally, not simply interested by their son however interested by the opposite 100 victims who’ve been misplaced within the street toll.
“What marvellous folks.”
What occurred on Friday night time?
The primary particulars of the alleged hit-and-run emerged in court paperwork on Monday.
Three witnesses, who say they had been ready with Charlie on Seashore Rd for a shuttle bus to take them again to Victor Harbor from Goolwa Seashore, say they flagged down the accused driver, Dhirren Randhawa, 18, to see if they may hitch a journey.
There was not sufficient room within the automobile and the witnesses say Mr Randhawa drove away earlier than making a U-turn.
He then allegedly sped up and began travelling on the improper facet of the street earlier than hitting Charlie, court paperwork reveal.
There isn’t any suggestion of animosity between the teams.
However Montana Rose Bowd, an eyewitness from inside Mr Dhirren’s automobile, tells a special story, based on the court paperwork.
Ms Bowd states some males had been on the western facet of the street and partially on the footpath, however there was additionally a male on the japanese facet of the street.
She says a male from the japanese facet ran throughout the street into Mr Randhawa’s automobile, based on the court paperwork.
She states Mr Randhawa then drove a brief distance earlier than calling his mom and asking whether or not he ought to flip himself right into a police station or name the police.
As he was speaking to her, the police arrived and arrested him, she stated.
The info of cost doc, which recounts the eyewitness accounts, was on Monday lodged with Christies Seashore Magistrates Court, the place Mr Randhawa appeared for the primary time within the afternoon.
His mom Amreeta Stara attended the court, sitting within the entrance row of the room.
She sat silently and didn’t say something inside or outdoors the courthouse.
The court granted Mr Randhawa bail and he left the court along with his mom and supporters within the late afternoon, shifting by means of a scrum of media right into a ready automobile.
Charlie suffered irreversible mind injury within the smash and Mr Stevens, his spouse Emma and their 4 different children, Sophie, Dylan, Josh and Tom, stated their goodbyes to Charlie at Flinders Medical Centre alongside prolonged household.
Charlie died at 7.01pm on November 18.
The police have charged Mr Randhawa with inflicting demise by harmful driving, aggravated driving with out due care, leaving the scene of a crash after inflicting demise and failing to actually reply questions.
If he’s discovered responsible, he faces a most jail time period of 15 years and disqualification from holding or acquiring a driver’s licence for 10 years.
Like Charlie, there’s a narrative and a life behind each quantity.
‘If I may commerce all my years left for you, I might …’
In a particular characteristic from Wednesday, the Adelaide Advertiser paid tribute to each life misplaced on the roads this yr.
Alex “Tucka” Henschke, 23, was the twenty seventh individual to die on the roads after his Yamaha bike crashed into 4 automobiles on Port Rd in Adelaide.
Tatiana Tenikoff, 22, turned the state’s 54th fatality when her Toyota sedan veered off the street and crashed right into a tree on Uley Rd, Uleybury.
And the trauma of street deaths engulfs extra than simply the direct victims.
When Archie Harrowfield, 17, turned the 74th fatality, his brother Jamie O’Callaghan wrote on social media how “unfair” it appeared.
“If I may commerce all my years left for you I might, with no blink. For yet one more day, yet one more dialog,” he stated.
Paul Clark misplaced his total household in a horror crash at Everard Central, about 120km north of Adelaide, on October 31.
Cynthia Clark, 84, and her daughter Jacquie, 54, had been killed when a van collided with their Honda Civic on the Templeton Rd and Blyth Rd intersection on October 31.
Husband and father John Clark, 86, was within the rear of the Honda and suffered crucial accidents within the crash.
Paramedics flew him to Royal Adelaide Hospital for additional remedy, however he died from his accidents on November 6.
Paul was on vacation in Southeast Asia when the crash modified his life.
“I simply went right into a daze and shock and simply began arranging flights to return again,” he instructed The Advertiser.
“I’m nonetheless attempting to grasp what’s occurred.
“There’s quite a lot of shock actually, simply coming to phrases with it.”
The Street Fatality knowledge
The variety of lives misplaced would quickly tick up once more to 103 after a 65-year-old truck driver died on the facet of Hanson Rd in Adelaide’s north whereas fixing an obvious breakdown on Wednesday, and a 26-year-old Andrews Farm man died in a crash on the Anzac Freeway on Thursday.
Yr-to-date, 2023 is the worst yr for street deaths since 2010, although some earlier years have recorded increased whole annual figures.
For a similar interval in 2022, the state recorded simply 61 deaths, that means this yr has recorded a 67 per cent spike in deaths.
What is going on?
In an tackle to media on Friday, talking in regards to the state of affairs on the state’s roads usually, State Operations Service Assistant Commissioner Ian Parrott stated there have been a “important variety of folks” who continued to drive recklessly on the roads, placing the lives of others in danger.
Between November 13 and 19, he stated Operation Protected Pace had detected 1290 dashing offences.
By comparability, a four-day operation in Might detected 384 offences.
“The sort of angle from folks is totally unacceptable, this can be very egocentric and this can be very harmful,” he stated.
The police attribute dashing as a think about 28 deaths this yr, whereas 14 are attributed to drink-driving and 15 to drug-driving.
“There’s a persevering with pattern of individuals exceeding the velocity restrict, of individuals drink and drug driving. We’re on the market and we’re catching folks,” Mr Parrott stated.
“There are lots of people doing the appropriate factor … however there are far too many individuals taking far too many dangers.”
Mr Parrott emphasised the significance of “private duty” in decreasing the carnage.
“Households want to speak to one another, parents want to inform youngsters in regards to the risks on the street and also you simply want to carry one another accountable,” he stated.
“Everyone has to play their half in order that we are able to really cease folks killing themselves on the street.”
Mr Malinauskas stated deliberate recklessness couldn’t be “tolerated”.
“We’re all responsible of it, being distracted on the roads occasionally,” the Premier instructed 5AA radio on Wednesday.
“You recognize it is likely to be youngsters arguing within the again seat of the automobile, the temptation to have a look at a message on a telephone.
“It’s simply vital to remind ourselves that when you find yourself behind the wheel you settle for duty, not only for your self and the opposite folks within the automobile, however everybody else round us.
“However that’s distraction; the recklessness and folks dashing, and extra deliberate acts, are tougher to grasp. That’s the place we’ve simply bought to see a change in angle in behaviour.
“Regardless of the second is, you is likely to be annoyed, otherwise you really feel the necessity that you’re in a rush to hurry, or no matter, it’s simply an unacceptable danger, and it may well’t be tolerated.”
The federal government has launched harder measures to crack down on harmful driving.
The “excessive velocity” legal guidelines that got here into impact in late 2022 ramp up penalties for offenders.
The laws applies the place a driver exceeds the velocity restrict by 55km/h or extra on a street the place the velocity restrict is 60km/h or much less or exceeds the velocity restrict by 80km/h or extra on a street the place the velocity restrict is greater than 60km/h.
“The offence is punishable by imprisonment and a minimal interval of licence disqualification,” a authorities spokesman stated.
“It outlines aggravating circumstances which might end in increased penalties. It features a energy for police to impose an instantaneous lack of licence on the roadside in the event that they fairly consider excessive velocity has been dedicated.”
From January 1 subsequent yr, new legal guidelines will create a brand new offence of “inflicting demise or critical hurt by careless use of a car or vessel”, lifting accessible penalties from a most 12 months imprisonment to 5 years imprisonment for a primary offence, seven years aggravated.
Minimal licence disqualification intervals may also enhance from six months to 1 yr primary and three years aggravated.
“Notably, these are solely the obligatory minimal beginning factors for licence disqualification, and courts will impose longer intervals the place acceptable,” the spokesman stated.
“Our authorities has a zero-tolerance method to hoon driving and has launched powerful new penalties to fight harmful and egocentric behaviour on our roads.”
Mr Parrott additionally confirmed that police had been monitoring laws to evaluate if there have been any “gaps” within the legal guidelines.
“We’re all the time contemplating laws,” he stated.