Mum's plea for answers months after crash which killed daughter
Tegan Mills shouldn’t have been driving when she crashed and killed her two passengers.
The young mother was disqualified and a repeat offender. But according to the law, she’s not responsible for their deaths.
From the very beginning, the mum of crash victim Leanne McDonald Donna Reid has felt left out and alone.
"My daughter was in a morgue for a week before the police contacted next of kin to tell us that she was in a car accident. I just crawled up in a ball, went to bed and cried with my daughter's bear, and that's all I could do,” Ms Reid said as she described the moment she learned of her daughter’s death.
Truck driver Chris Clarke says he is not the man he used to be.
“You could offer me $10 million, I'd tell you to take your $10 million and give me my life back. Everyone thinks truck drivers are these people that have got no feelings and all this stuff and that - you know, we're human," Mr Clarke said.
A proud truckie for 20 years, it would only take a few seconds for his career to come to a screeching end.
“You don't wish it on your worst enemy, really. I've got to live with it for the rest of my life, whether I like it or not. If I get up in the morning, I think to myself, 'lucky that I've got up again',” Mr Clarke said.
Chris was driving a water tanker on the Gipps Way, just south of Condobolin in western New South Wales.
In the outback, on the dusty open road, there was nothing he could do when a car crashed head on into his rig, causing it to burst into flames.
“You're seeing all the flames and hoping to God you can open the door and get out of it,” Mr Clarke said.
Tegan Mills, 22, was driving the car that careered into Mr Clarke’s truck.
The mother-of-three was unlicensed and had two passengers in the car when she lost control on a bend on November 20, 2017.
Leanne McDonald and Jeff Welsh were both killed instantly.
Ms Reid said she can’t stomach the thought Mills is still free to walk the streets.
“It makes me sick. Everyday I get up and I think, 'my God, how does someone get away with this?'” Ms Reid said.
Leanne, 34, and Jeff, 44, were the best of friends, and both had disabilities.
“Leanne was autistic and had Down syndrome but she was a very giving girl. She was a huge part of our life and we all miss her, love her,” Ms Reid said.
Jeff and Leanne lived in the the tiny town of Ungarie, which has a population of just 500 people.
Jeff’s sister, Julie Welsh, has fond memories of the pair walking to the bus stop together.
“Now I can only look at an orange bus and that reminds me of my brother every single day,” Ms Welsh said.
After the crash, Tegan Mills was charged with driving while disqualified, two counts of negligent driving occasioning death and two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death, an offence that carries up to 10 years in jail.
But a year after the accident, the Department of Public Prosecution declared there was insufficient evidence to prove Tegan’s actions on the road caused Leanne and Jeff to die.
As a result, the DPP withdrew the four major charges against Tegan.
She walked free from court with a $1000 fine and banned from driving for three years.
“She shouldn't have been in that car – she had no licence – so as far as I'm concerned, she had no respect for Jeffrey, she had no respect for Leanne,” Ms Reid said.
To make matters worse, Tegan is a repeat offender when it comes to driving unlicensed.
In 2014, she was caught driving three times in four days, having never held a licence.
She was fined $250 for each offence and banned from driving until May 2015.
By September 2016, Tegan was a P-plater.
Within three months, she was fined $265 for speeding and lost her licence until May 2017.
But by March 2017, Tegan was again caught behind the wheel and lost her licence for two years.
Within nine months of that sentence, she once again broke the law, this time the cost far greater than any punishment a court could impose.
Within hours of the DPP telling A Current Affair it had no comment about the dropped case, the department sent a detailed email to Donna Reid.
The letter states there was very limited evidence available when it comes to the circumstances of the crash.
It explains, if the the DPP asks police for additional evidence, it is up to police to follow it up and the letter reveals that police are reviewing their investigation.
“Disgusting, that's all I've got to say, disgusting,” Ms Reid said.
Inspector Katie Orr heads up the crash investigation unit of the New South Wales Police.
“We gather all the evidence and then basically we put the brief together, it is put before the court, up to a judge or a jury about what the outcome will ultimately be,” Insp Orr said.
Donna Reid is calling on the authorities to stop blaming each other.
“To me, the DPP and the investigators – they were blaming each other … they've both copped out and given me no explanations," she said.
"To sit back a year later and I've still got no answers, and she's still running around out there.”
In a glimmer of hope for the victims’ families, police have conceded a review of their brief has lead to new lines of inquiry that are being followed up by crash investigators.
“I don't know much about the law, I'm just a normal everyday mum, but please look after our children,” Ms Reid said.
The New South Wales Coroner is reviewing the case and is expected to announce in the coming weeks whether an inquest will be held into the fatal crash.
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