A P-plate driver has been jailed for at least seven years after he recklessly sped at nearly twice the speed limit with too many children in the car when he smashed into a tree and killed five children.
Tyrell Edwards faced Campbelltown District Court on Friday after pleading guilty to five counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death at a speed more than 45km/h over the limit.
The 20-year-old wore a green prison tracksuit and kept his head bowed as Judge Christopher O’Brien sentenced him to at least seven years in imprisonment with a maximum of 12 years behind bars.
The judge described the deaths of the five victims as ‘tragic and impossibly sad’.
Tyrell Edwards (above) admitted to driving recklessly when he crashed into a tree with fatal consequences
Edwards (pictured in August) pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death at a speed more than 45km/h over the limit
‘The loss of these five young people diminishes us all,’ he said.
‘Their deaths were completely avoidable and responsibility for them lies squarely at the feet of the offender.’
The large group of his family members and friends broke down in tears as his sentence was delivered on the date of Edwards’ 20th birthday.
They hugged each other as they sat in the jury box, segregated from the rest of the full courtroom.
Edwards’ sentencing comes more than a year after he drove at nearly double the signposted speed limit along a rural road in Buxton on September 6, 2022, and crashed into a tree.
Edwards sustained only minor injuries, but his five teenage passengers were killed.
Lily Van de Putte, 14, Summer Williams, 14, Gabriella McLennan, 15, and Tyrese Bechard, 15, were all thrown from the car and found some distance away from the wreckage.
Lily Van De Putte (above), 14, was one of the five children killed in the horror crash on September 6, 2022
Summer Williams (above), 14, was killed when Edwards veered onto the wrong side of the main road and smashed into a tree
Antonio Desisto, 16, was hanging upside down in the passenger seat after being trapped by his seat belt.
Some of the victims’ families reportedly laughed derisively as the sentence was delivered while others gasped and cried at the thought Edwards could be out of jail in seven years.
Edwards was the sole survivor of the crash, which witnesses described as a ‘massive explosion’.
His mother’s Nissan Navara only had four seat belts, but five passengers were illegally crammed into the car at 8pm when the P-plater lost control of the car.
Judge O’Brien noted the ‘the enormity of the carnage’ caused by Edwards’ reckless driving on that fateful night.
The P-plater veered onto the wrong side of the main road and smashed into a tree before the impact sent the car hurtling into a second tree.
Edwards was heard yelling ‘get me out of here, I can’t stay in here’ while he was trapped inside the cabin.
Antonio Desisto (above), 16, was found hanging upside down in the passenger seat after being trapped by his seat belt during the crash
Gabriella McLennan (above), 15, died after Edwards reached speeds of up to 147 km/h during a joyride with the five children
He managed to free himself by pushing out the windscreen and climbing out.
‘I’m gonna go to jail, I can’t go to jail, I don’t want to go to jail,’ the 20-year-old told witnesses at the scene.
He had previously been suspended from driving on two occasions, court documents reveal.
According to the agreed facts, Edwards reached speeds of up to 147 km/h when he collected Tyrese and Antonio for a joy ride on the afternoon of September 6.
He used his mobile phone to film himself swerving across the road and was heard in a Snapchat video saying: ‘We are going 160 (km/h) the whole way.’
Judge O’Brien found the P-plater had revealed a ‘serious disregard for public safety’ when he engaged in an ‘extended, sustained and deliberate’ criminal course of conduct.
‘His driving was both erratic and aggressive and characterised by him showing off for the victims,’ he said.
‘The offender demonstrated an abandonment of his responsibilities as a road user.’
Tyrese Bechard (above) was picked up along with Antonio for a ‘joyride’ during Edwards filmed himself speeding
In a letter tendered to the court, the P-plater apologised for the pain caused by his actions and said he wished he could ‘take it all back’.
‘I am so sorry for the pain and loss I have caused to all the families,’ he wrote.
‘I know serving a sentence won’t be good enough for the damage that has been done.’
The 20-year-old acknowledged there were ‘too many people in the car’ and ‘there was speed involved’ when he crashed into the tree.
‘I know I must face up to what happened and my responsibility for the accident,’ he wrote.
Judge O’Brien found 20-year-old had continually demonstrated his remorse and acceptance of responsibility for his actions.
‘He is truly genuinely and deeply remorseful for his conduct and the deaths of the five victims,’ the judge said.
The court heard Edwards suffered long term acute stress disorder and major depressive disorder after the crash. He also continues to battle with survivor’s guilt, self-blame, and ‘ongoing’ suicidal ideation.
Edwards told the court: ‘I am so sorry for the pain and loss I have caused to all the families’ (pictured, a memorial left at the scene of the crash)
Judge O’Brien took into account his mental health and the burden it would add to time spent behind bars.
‘There is no doubt in my mind he will be vulnerable in a custodial setting,’ he said.
With that in mind, he extended the non-parole period to allow Edwards to serve a longer term of his sentence in the community.
The grieving families of the five victims previously told the court they had been handed a life sentence when Edwards decided to drive recklessly that night.
Lily’s sister Brittany Van De Putte cried as she highlighted the devastating and long lasting impact of Edwards’ ‘stupid decision’.
‘My sister’s life was in your hands. She trusted you, we trusted you,’ she said.
‘You had control and you took advantage of that.’
Edwards (right) picked up Antonio Desisto (left) for a joy ride around Buxton on September 6, 2022
Her father John Van De Putte has been responsible for spearheading the ‘Think of the five, arrive alive’ campaign for road safety in honour of the dead children.
He previously told the court there was ‘no excuse’ for Edwards, a licenced driver, to have driven so recklessly and endangered the lives of his underage passengers.
‘No matter what you get, it will not bring back the five lives,’ he told the 20-year-old.