It was a dispute with her partner that prompted Elanna Kyriakou to go driving late on February 11. It was a mistake.
Kyriakou was drunk. Testing would later return a blood alcohol reading of 0.208.
On the M1, she accelerated beyond the 100km/h limit, gaining on a car up ahead that was carrying a family of five.
She was travelling at 130km/h when her car connected with theirs.
The family – mum, dad and three children under 10 – went spinning across multiple lanes. Their car smashed into a guard rail and spun some more, its internal cavities filling with inflated airbags, before coming to rest on a median strip.
Kyriakou’s car also spun, and flipped onto its side. She had to climb out of the sunroof to free herself from the wreckage.
Incredibly, no one was seriously hurt. But Kyriakou’s troubles were just beginning.
Both cars were written off and, as she was drunk, her insurer would pay for neither. She owed $23,000 to a finance company and was told to expect a civil claim for $24,000, from the other party.
In Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday, the neatly dressed Kyriakou, 29, with her steady job and otherwise good driving record, faced sentencing for high-range drink driving, drive manner dangerous and negligent driving.
Her lawyer, Michael Sinadinovic, produced character references and spoke of how hard Kyriakou had worked for her position in a civil engineering firm. She had continued driving to and from Sydney each weekday in the five months since the crash, without incident, he said.
“She accepts full responsibility for what happened … It was a bad judgement call on the day.”
Mr Sinadinavic proposed Kyriakou perform community service as punishment.
But then two correctives officers appeared, a sign Magistrate Michael Stoddart had a harsher penalty in mind.
Kyriakou’s mother wept from the public gallery as the magistrate ordered her daughter to serve nine months behind bars, with a non-parole period of three months.
In sentencing, the magistrate acknowledged Kyriakou’s “good traffic record” and her early plea. But he found the offence aggravated by factors including the number of people she had put at risk.
“It’s really remarkable, and thankful, that no one was killed or injured,” he said.
“One may be able to imagine what sort of psychological injuries the people in that car – particularly the children – may have suffered. Doing nothing wrong. Minding their own business. Thankfully, they were safe.”
Kyriakou immediately lodged an appeal, which will be heard on August 17. She has been released on bail in the meantime.