Community devastated by loss of family in Catani truck crash

Source: The Age

The Beckett family had only lived in the tiny town of Poowong, in South Gippsland, for a year.

Stephen and Jade Beckett worked on Wilbrae dairy farm, a few kilometres out of town.

On Friday they were doing the school drop-off for their son Sammy, 9, and his sister Ella, 6, in nearby Koo Wee Rup. Toddler brother William, 2, was along for the ride.

They never made it to school.

The truck driver allegedly ran a stop sign at the corner of Caldermeade Road and Heads Road about 9am before ploughing into the family’s car and rolling on top of it.

Both vehicles caught on fire and the car was scorched.

Sammy, 9, was pulled from the wreck by a passer-by.

The truck driver, Jobandeep Gill, 27, of Noble Park was arrested shortly after the crash. Under police guard at Dandenong Hospital on Friday night he was refused bail during a bedside remand hearing.

Police examine the truck involved. Photo: Joe Armao

Police examine the truck involved. Photo: Joe Armao

He has been charged with four counts of culpable driving causing death, four counts of dangerous driving causing death, one count of reckless conduct endangering life and one count of failing to stop at a stop sign.

Mr Gill is due to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday, but his court date could be sooner if he is released from hospital earlier than expected.

Sammy will be traumatised for life, police say.

‘‘This is an horrific scene," Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said.

Jade Beckett loved horses. She was ecstatic to become a member of the Koo Wee Rup Horse Riders Club, late last yerar. The club has a long waiting list. Club president Laura Kirby said she did not believe Mrs Beckett ever made it to a meet because she had trouble with her horse float. Mrs Beckett made equine rhythm beads for horses – a jewellery-like pendant designed to calm horses.

Earlier this year, William, 2, was at the Monash Medical Centre’s children’s ward, bearing up after fracturing his femur.

Stephen Beckett had celebrated his birthday in February. He grew up in Launceston.

Both husband and wife worked at Wilbrae dairy farm in Poowong, eight kilometres from Koo Wee Rup, in South Gippsland.

Bill Loughridge, co-owner of the farm where they worked, said the loss was crushing.

‘‘It was very difficult for everybody and to know that a whole family has been wiped out, all but one, in a situation like that," Mr Loughridge told Fairfax Radio 3AW.

‘‘Well, it has devastated all our workers.

‘‘I have been over at the shed this morning talking to them all. It has really knocked us all rotten."

Poowong Post Office licensee John Mandemaker said the family had lived in the small community for about a year.

Mr Mandemaker said he did not know the family well, but that even those who did not know the couple and children were distressed by their deaths.

"I have had a few people in this morning talking about it," Mr Mandemaker said.

"When Bill (Loughridge) came in yesterday and I heard, my heart just sank. You meet people and talk to them ... it’s an absolute tragedy," he said.


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