The heroic actions of onlookers who tried to save the Falkholt family after a horrific Boxing Day car crash have been praised at the inquest into their deaths.
Home and Away actor Jessica Falkholt, her sister and her parents died after another car driven by a drug-addled driver failed to follow a bend on a highway as the family returned to Sydney from a Christmas event on the South Coast in 2017.
A witness described the cars as colliding with such force they were "pushed up into a triangle before landing again".
Husband and wife Lars and Vivian Falkholt died in the fiery crash. Jessica, aged 28, and her sister Annabelle, aged 20, were dragged from the wreckage by passers-by just moments before their vehicle burst into flames but died later in hospital.
The driver of the other car also died.
Handing down her findings on Tuesday, NSW State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan said the collision had horrified the community.
"The tragedy of the events was compounded by the fact that the accident occurred on Boxing Day, a day many of us look forward to celebrating with our family and friends," she said.
Given the graphic nature of the crash, Ms O'Sullivan paid special tribute to community members who attempted to free the family from the wreckage at "considerable personal risk".
"The heroic actions of many community members and off-duty medical staff is notable," she said.
"As (Vivian's brother Paul Ponticello) noted, their actions provide him with the reassurance and knowledge that his family was not alone following the accident."
The inquest heard the crash was caused by Craig Whitall, a long-time methadone program patient who had an array of medical issues and a terrible driving record going back to 1984.
A cocktail of prescription drugs was found in Mr Whitall's system, which a forensic pharmacologist told the inquest would likely have caused "significant impairment of his cognitive and motor functions which would have resulted in impairment of his driving ability".
He was seen driving erratically and having several near-misses with other cars in his trip from Nowra to his Ulladulla home.
Ms O'Sullivan found, while having a "long-term willingness to ignore the road rules", Mr Whithall was experiencing sedation about the time of the crash.
He had also been recently upgraded to green P-plates, despite recording eight demerit points for various infringements, as there is a delay in Revenue NSW passing details onto licensing authority Transport for NSW.
That contrasted with Mr Falkholt, an "exceptionally safe" driver by all accounts who - the coroner was satisfied - could have done no reasonable thing to prevent the collision.
However, Ms O'Sullivan noted that Mr Whitall was still part of a family "who miss and mourn him", despite his troubled life and many flaws.
The coroner declined to make any recommendations.
She warned against using the terrible crash to draw broad conclusions about the general driving safety of patients on the opioid treatment program.
Australian Associated Press
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