The driver of a runaway truck that ploughed through a McDonald's carpark at Mount Ousley, injuring two women, claims he was the victim of "catastrophic brake failure" and not the impatient architect of the white-knuckle calamity, as police allege.
Sourab Bisht's Wollongong Local Court hearing centres around the question of when and how he lost control of the truck while coming down Mount Ousley Road the morning of November 5, 2018.
Police allege the 24-year-old criminally erred in four main ways: by failing to check the truck's reservoir tank for damaging condensation at the start of his shift; by not investigating possible problems when his truck overheated and broke down earlier that day; by choosing to overtake a slow-moving tanker on the mountain in defiance of signs requiring trucks to keep left; and by not pulling up in an arrester bed (sand trap) moments later, once the truck was out of control.
"The accused didn't seek any assistance for his mechanical problems [earlier] that day," police prosecutor Coby Davis told the court. "He didn't take the truck to the yard, he just let it sit there, then he continued on his journey, knowing he had that steep descent ahead of him."
Sgt Davis told the court Bisht chose to overtake the slower fuel tanker "out of impatience", and that this caused the accident.
"Instead of sitting behind it as he's required to do ... he ignores that and overtakes the truck. At some point he's lost control of the truck when he's missed a gear, his brakes of no assistance to him. He only lost control of that truck when he did the wrong thing. The result of that was him hurtling down Mount Ousley, ignoring the arrester bed that was there."
But Bisht told police he strayed into the right hand lane only after he felt the brakes fail, in order to avoid a collision with the tanker.
"I had to change lane," he told them. "I went into the right lane then I went back into the left lane. The whole time I'm blowing my horn to let people know my brakes were not working or something was wrong."
He went on to tell police he "had a blank moment on my mind, I wasn't able to think of anything", as he passed the arrester bed that could have averted the disaster.
Defence lawyer Graeme Morrison told the court Bisht's failure to use the sand trap could not be considered intentional misconduct.
"My client's in a runaway truck going down Mount Ousley; he said he panicked," he said, adding a witness had described Bisht's face as "terrified" in the moments leading to impact.
Mr Morrison said Bisht had checked for damaging condensation in the part of the truck where the brakes hold their air pressure when he finished work on Friday, and didn't see the need to check again on Monday morning as the truck hadn't been used over the weekend.
RMS expert Paul Purcell gave evidence there was a week or more worth of accumulated water in this reservoir, when the valves should be drained every day to prevent damage to parts of the brakes.
Independent engineer Grant Johnston, a witness for the defence, gave evidence of "catastrophic brake failure", at odds with Mr Purcell, who earlier told the court Bisht's brakes had been working in the lead-up to the crash, albeit with limited efficiency and with one of the three axles too damaged by the crash for him to later examine.
"They're definitely not good," he said of the examinable brakes, adding it was "tough to say" whether the brakes could have helped Bisht if the truck had been going too fast for him to get back into the correct gear.
"An experienced driver who's been around a long while, he might have a good shot, but an inexperienced driver, together with the load - it's not going to be easy."
Shown dashcam footage of the truck's descent down the mountain, Mr Johnston conceded Bisht had had control up until a point just past the Mount Pleasant turnoff, where the truck indicated, pulled into the right-hand lane and overtook the fuel tanker.
At 39kmh, the truck with the filming dashcam was initially gaining on Bisht's truck, indicating he was at one stage travelling well within the 40kmh limit for trucks.
The footage shows the truck accelerated out of view after overtaking.
Multiple cameras in the McDonald's carpark captured the truck barrelling in moments later. One of the injured parties, Victoria Turner, is seen sprinting out of her damaged car towards another crash site at the back of the drive-through, where another woman remained pinned in her car, nose-to-nose with the now stationary truck, for about 20 minutes.
Details of the women's injuries were not aired in court.
The court heard Bisht had only been working for the trucking company for a week, but had travelled down Mount Ousley before the ill-fated November 5 trip.
He got his trucking licence in India and was assisted in court on Wednesday by a Punjabi interpreter.
Magistrate Janine Lacy said she would consider a large number of documents tendered as evidence before the matter returns to court on Thursday for her decision.