Tasmania’s top prosecutor has told a court it was likely he fell asleep at the wheel in the seconds before his Mercedes-Benz was involved in a fatal car crash.
Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, 58, has given evidence after pleading not guilty to a charge of negligent driving causing death.
Ellis’s car collided with a Toyota Corolla being driven by 27-year-old Launceston woman Natalia Pearn in March last year.
Ms Pearn was killed in the crash on the Midland Highway between Hobart and Launceston.
Prosecutors say Ellis’s car was in an overtaking lane for oncoming traffic when it hit Ms Pearn’s car head-on.
Under cross-examination from prosecution lawyer John Pickering, Ellis was asked if it was possible he had been awake.
“It’s possibly the case but I don’t think it is the case,” the DPP told the Hobart Magistrates Court.
The court had previously heard Ellis had been successfully treated for sleep apnoea in the 14 months before the crash.
Ellis said he had fallen asleep at the wheel on the same highway more than 10 years earlier.
He said on the day of the crash he had been tired but did not believe he should not have been driving.
“Drowsy, I shouldn’t be driving,” he said.
“Tired is our lot in life sometimes.”
Ellis said he did not remember the seconds leading up to the crash and there was no reason he would have been in the wrong lane if he had not been asleep.
He said it was unlikely he’d have been confused by the road markings because he’d driven the highway “thousands” of times.
The court heard Ellis had written to the family of Ms Pearn accepting that his car had been in her lane.
Ellis, who suffered a serious leg fracture, resumed driving in December last year and has since returned to the scene of the crash for “peace of mind”.
He said his own test had found a car could negotiate the bend on which the collision occurred without “steering input”.
The DPP was reminded several times by magistrate Chris Webster that he was to answer as the defendant, and not as counsel.
Ellis has been suspended on full pay until the matter is resolved.
The hearing continues on Friday.