Jury hung in fatal Yallah minibus crash case

Michael Ryan (left) was the driver of a Warrigal Care minibus that crashed last year.
Michael Ryan (left) was the driver of a Warrigal Care minibus that crashed last year.

A jury had been discharged after failing to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of a man accused of dangerous driving occasioning a woman's death at Yallah last year. 

Michael Ryan, 65, was the driver of a Warrigal Care minibus that partially crossed into the path of a fuel carrier at Yallah on January 25 last year. 

Margaret Russell, 78, suffered multiple blunt force injuries and died at the scene. 

The Wollongong District Court jury had retired to consider a verdict just before 10am Friday, after four days of evidence. 

With the court not sitting on Monday, jurors resumed deliberations on Tuesday. 

Judge John Pickering invited a majority (11-1) verdict about 3pm. The jury quickly advised they could not arrive at a majority. 

It was the Crown’s case that Ryan had not fully overtaken B double when he steered the minibus into its lane on the M1 at Yallah, in an ill-fated attempt to reach the Dapto exit, only about 500 metres away.

He was transporting 10 people – two staff and eight clients – to a picnic at Dapto’s Integral Energy Park. The trip was part of Warrigal's Club Connect program - a friendship group for older people who lived in their own homes but came into contact with the aged care provider one or several days a week, for social activities. 

Ms Russell, of Shellharbour, was positioned three or four seats behind the driver. 

The 18.5-tonne truck, laden with almost 49,000 litres of ethanol, had been gaining speed on a downhill slope. Its driver, Tony Forshaw, gave evidence he could not see the bottom of the bus and therefore could not see whether its indicator lit up. 

Both vehicles were fitted with devices that limited their speed to 100km/h. 

The offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. 

The Crown will now consider whether to proceed to a re-trial.

The Crown also has the option of downgrading the charge, and entering into plea negotiations, the judge noted. 

The matter returns to court July 17.

Michael Ryan, pictured outside court Tuesday afternoon, after the jury in his trial was discharged. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Michael Ryan, pictured outside court Tuesday afternoon, after the jury in his trial was discharged. Picture: Sylvia Liber

UPDATE 3.40pm: Departing the courthouse a short time ago, Ryan told reporters the prospect of a re-trial was “not nice. It’s not a very good thought at all".  

He said he had not had much sleep and his mind “wouldn’t switch off” during the trial. 

Ryan was accompanied by a group of supporters throughout the trial. 

Ms Russell’s family was not in court to hear Tuesday’s outcome.