By Cam Lucadou-Wells
An unwell Cranbourne South sales rep should not have been driving at the time when he fatally crashed with a Hallam motorcyclist in Clyde, a sentencing judge has stated.
Jacob Kerry Hague, 36, was jailed for up to five years for dangerous driving causing death at the notorious South Gippsland Highway and Clyde-Five Ways Road intersection about 4pm on Sunday 13 October 2019.
At the time, an “aggressive and impatient” Hague was in a hurry to get to hospital when he failed to give way.
He pulled out from the centre median strip into 80 km/h northbound highway traffic – a split second before a Harley Davidson ridden by Stephen Troman crashed into the car.
Mr Troman, a 67-year-old retired boilermaker and welder, had been riding home after an organised ride with motorcycle club Dan Hogs.
He died at the scene from his injuries.
On a fine, clear day, Hague’s view had been obscured by another waiting car.
“You admitted that you did not see Mr Troman, even though he must have been almost entering the intersection as you commence to make your right-hand turn,” Victorian County Court judge Frances Hogan said in sentencing on 1 April.
In the lead-up, Hague had failed to give way to right-turning vehicles as he pulled into the centre median from Clyde Five Ways Road.
A witness stated that he “looked like he was in a hurry … agitated”. “He appeared to be in a rush,” another observed.
At the median ‘rest area’, Hague “was waving his hands in the air” at a driver ahead of him, trying to make them move into the northbound traffic.
Hague, with a known arrythmia and a family history of heart problems, had been suffering dizziness, chest pains and breathlessness.
The night before, he’d twice woken in a “state of fright and short of breath”.
Earlier that day, a doctor at Duff Street Medical Clinic, Cranbourne West advised Hague not to drive and to go to hospital.
He declined an offer of an ambulance, as well as his partner’s offer to drive him to hospital.
Hague instead drove himself to work in Clyde North for an appointment with a client.
After more chest pain and dizzy spells, he drove towards home for his partner to take him to hospital.
On the way, he stopped to text his boss to say he would take the next day off for health tests.
After he resumed driving, the fatal crash occurred.
Medical testing ruled out a cardiac cause for Hague’s symptoms. The symptoms however were “clearly concerning” to him before the crash, Judge Hogan noted.
Hague’s “heightened state of anxiety” due to his concern that he may suffer a cardiac event was a significant factor.
“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that you were distracted by your symptoms and health concerns from fully focusing upon your driving and obeying the road rules.
“The gravity of your offending is that a person, like you, who was suffering symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness, no matter what the causation, should simply not be driving a car.”
Judge Hogan said the Clyde intersection’s layout without traffic lights was a “problematic one” but didn’t excuse Hague’s “irresponsible” behaviour.
“However, I make the observation that, in these circumstances, the human frailty of impatience is more likely to come to the fore.”
Victim impact statements by Mr Troman’s wife Dianne and three adult children were “deeply moving” and told of “terrible grief”, Judge Hogan said.
His family described a dependable “rock” and companion, a “fun loving, hard working, playful and straight forward father”.
A perfectionist and skilled handyman with cars, and in the home and garden.
During the reading of the statements, Hague appeared a “genuinely broken man, sobbing and distraught”, Judge Hogan said.
“An innocent life has been lost by your dangerous driving,” she said.
Hague had been previously charged with suspended or disqualified driving three times – the last in late 2014.
He had received speeding tickets for up to 40 km/h over the limit.
Since then he’d matured in a stable relationship with a partner and two children.
“I accept that you are fundamentally a moral person who is very family-oriented, hardworking and decent.”
Since the crash, Hague was “riddled with remorse and guilt to an almost debilitating degree”.
“It is graphically illustrated by the statement to your father that if you could give your life so that Mr Troman’s life could be returned, you would do so.”
Judge Hogan said she was moved to exercise mercy for the sake of Hague’s partner and very young children who would be “deprived of their father’s love, care and financial support for a significant period of time”.
Hague was jailed for up to five years, with a minimum two-and-a-half year non-parole period.
He was disqualified from driving for the minimum 18 months.