A garbage truck driver who struck and killed a grandmother during a three-point turn in Sydney’s west has avoided jail, after a court heard he is devastated by his actions and will carry the incident with him for the rest of his life.
Christopher Sultana, 34, was emptying bins in Chester Hill on the morning of February 23, 2021, when he reached the end of a residential street and turned around at an intersection to access the bins on the opposite side.
Ruiming Zhang, 84, who had been on her regular morning walk, crossed the road as the truck completed the three-point turn and was in the vehicle’s blind spot when it began to drive forward at about 8.30am. She was hit and killed instantly.
On Wednesday, NSW District Court Judge Sophia Beckett said Sultana failed to notice the woman approaching on the truck’s reversing camera, which should have been a warning that a pedestrian was nearby.
Cars had been crossing in front of the truck, the judge said, which caused Sultana to display “critical but momentary” inattention to the other movements around him.
Sultana pleaded guilty to negligent driving causing death over the incident, and was acquitted in a judge-alone trial of the more serious charge of dangerous driving occasioning death.
Beckett convicted Sultana on Wednesday and sentenced him to a two-year community corrections order, which requires him to complete 200 hours of community service, undergo counselling and complete the traffic offenders program.
He has also been disqualified from driving for two years, starting from the date of the crash.
The judge said Sultana “effectively suffered a breakdown” after the incident and expressed immediate remorse, asking police if he could contact the victim’s family to send a card or flowers. Police advised him this would not be appropriate.
Sultana could also be seen on CCTV expressing shock and despair after exiting his truck, placing his head in his hands and attempting to shield the victim’s body from onlookers.
Giving evidence on Wednesday, the driver said he is “truly and deeply sorry” and understands the family’s anger towards him.
“This is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “There has not been a day since the incident that I haven’t thought about what happened, and I don’t think there ever will be.”
He had previously described the events as “surreal” and that day as the worst day of his life.
In a victim impact statement, Ruiming Zhang’s daughter said her mother had been healthy and active despite being in her 80s, going for a walk each day at about 8am.
Cynthia Zhang recalled breaking down when police told her that her mother had been hit and “died on the spot”. She said her Anglican faith gave her the strength to forgive Sultana.
Ruiming Zhang’s granddaughter began to cry when she described CCTV which showed her grandmother throwing up her arm as the truck came towards her. She said her grandmother had almost completely crossed the road and was only three steps from the footpath when she was hit.
Beckett said Ruiming Zhang’s death was “sudden and needless” and had ramifications for her family and the wider community.
“These cases are the most difficult of cases, and there are very obviously no winners,” she said.