A car that ploughed into a group of pedestrians in Wollongong on Saturday night, killing Kiama 19-year-old Libby Ruge, was earlier filmed hooning just 200m from where it ran out of control, a court has heard.
Arpan Sharma, a 21-year-old Indian student and part-time cleaner, is accused of pulling the handbrake on the moving Toyota Camry, causing the car to come fatally unstuck.
On Monday Wollongong Local Court heard Sharma confessed on the roadside to police, telling them, "I pulled the handbrake, then this accident happened".
Sharma was granted bail late on Monday after Magistrate Roger Prowse spectacularly denounced the prosecution case as "extraordinarily weak".
Sharma was in the passenger seat of a silver Toyota Camry about 10.30pm on Saturday when it hit Miss Ruge and her two friends, Eva and Tye, as they walked on a footpath outside the Collegians club.
According to a police account of events, the car skidded for 30 metres before the hand brake was released, then travelled another 20 metres north as it veered sharply to the left, mounting the kerb and footpath and colliding heavily with the trio, pushing them forwards.
Eva Harrison, 18, and her 21-year-old boyfriend Tye West were hospitalised with a fractured pelvis and leg and rib fractures, respectively. The pair remain in Wollongong Hospital in a stable condition. A 20-year-old male pedestrian - Miss Ruge's boyfriend Luke Day - escaped injury.
The court heard the driver left the crash site but returned when called by his passengers - Sharma and another man.
In opposing Sharma's release on bail, police prosecutor David Weaver said Sharma posed a flight risk. He referenced the case of Indian national Puneet Puneet, who fled Australia in 2008 after he was involved in a fatal hit-and-run in Melbourne.
"He [Sharma] is not an Australian citizen, he's here on a student visa," Sgt Weaver said.
"He has very little ties to the community, if any.
"One is reminded of a matter back in 2008 ... he [Puneet] fled the country on a friend's passport and he still hasn't been extradited."
Sgt Weaver said Sharma posed an unacceptable risk to the community if released.
"This has resulted in the death of one poor lady and serious injuries to others," he said.
"I've heard [from police] there's CCTV footage of the car approximately 200 metres down the road doing a similar thing, where the wheels have locked and the car fishtails," he said.
"They've done the same thing again 200m later."
He said the prosecution case was strong, backed by multiple witnesses and Sharma's own admission, and that this would likely send him to jail.
"There's an admission from the defendant that he did in fact pull the brake up and, in his words, 'caused the accident'.
But Magistrate Prowse noted all five dangerous charges applied to a driver, and that Sharma - under legal definition - wasn't necessarily that.
"The Crown has to prove he was the driver on all five counts. It's tenuous," the magistrate said.
"In the court's opinion it's highly unlikely ... that you''ll be convicted of the current charges," he said, addressing Sharma.
"In the circumstances, there's no reason not to grant bail."
Appearing via video link, he was expressionless throughout most of Monday's proceedings, only responding briefly to questions on his address and the availability of his passport when called upon.
The court heard Sharma was studying a diploma of business at Parramatta, while working about 20 hours a week as a cleaner.
It is a condition of Sharma's bail that he surrender his passport and not enter any international point of departure.
Outside court, Tye West' father told reporters he was "still coming to terms" with the crash.
"Tye pushed his girlfriend out of the way, he got thrown about 20 metres into the air and ended up in hospital," he said.
"The fact he is ok is a relief."
Mr West was present in court to hear Sharma be granted bail.
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