Daryl Wood and Toni Sonter talk about their experience after a stolen vehicle crashed into the rear of their Rav4 at Ulmarra.
Daryl Wood and Toni Sonter talk about their experience after a stolen vehicle crashed into the rear of their Rav4 at Ulmarra. Adam Hourigan

Driver battles to get behind wheel

IT HAS been just over a month since a stolen ute driven by a teenager slammed into the back of the Rav4 driven by Toni Sonter of South Grafton and the idea of getting behind the wheel remains a scary prospect for her.

The 16-year-old driver was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of six months in Grafton Children's Court on September 3.

The driver told officers that he'd been sniffing glue earlier that day with his friends and when he finally came to he was behind the wheel of a stolen car in Robina, on the Gold Coast.

He was accompanied in the car by three fellow Queensland youths, including two girls aged 13 and 14 and a boy aged 16.

The girls were dealt with by the courts on August 20, the day after the crash, and each received a 12-month good-behaviour bond for being carried in a stolen car.

The second 16-year-old boy is due to be sentenced on October 10 for being carried in a stolen car.

No one was physically injured in the collision and Magistrate David Heilpern commented when sentencing the girls that it was lucky someone wasn't killed.

The psychological scars of the incident, however, have remained with Ms Sonter, who was in the car with her partner Daryl Wood at the time, and she is still angered by the incident.

Ms Sonter and Mr Wood had just pulled out onto the highway from Mr Wood's mother's house in Ulmarra when the crash occurred.

"I was doing about 20-30kmh ... there was just this big jolt. I remember doing 360s before landing on our side," she said.

Mr Wood managed to climb out of the car but Ms Sonter was trapped for about 20 minutes.

The couple were taken to Grafton Base Hospital for cautionary checks and Mr Wood said the teenagers were there as well "just laughing their frigging heads off".

"The driver thought it was pretty funny till I told him he might be going to jail, then he burst into tears," Mr Wood said.

Ms Sonter said she was ready to hand in her licence a couple of weeks ago but had since managed to drive three times, saying she had lost a lot of confidence and felt like fellow drivers were trying to get her.

Mr Wood, who has to drive daily for work, said he had been avoiding the highway.

News that the driver who caused the crash could be on the streets in six months were received with disappointment.

"That's ridiculous," she said. "We're lucky we weren't killed and that's all he gets.

"They should be made to pay for the damage to both cars," Mr Wood said.

The couple were thankful their daughter Andrea, 17, decided against joining them because she would have been in the back seat, which was destroyed.

"Bring on the Ulmarra bypass," Mr Wood said.


Police facts in the case

POLICE told the court that police first heard of a car driving dangerously at Wardell at 4.40pm on Sunday, August 19.

A Coraki police car caught up with the stolen Toyota Hilux ute at Woodburn about 4.55pm but it sped off and the chase was terminated.

A Richmond police officer saw the ute drive on the wrong side of divided roadway before terminating a second chase at New Italy.

At 5.20pm a Maclean officer reported the car driving in excess of 150kmh at Harwood - this chase was also terminated.

Road spikes were organised for Cowper and a Richmond car was in hot pursuit but the driver took the Hilux to the wrong side of the road to avoid the spikes - a fourth chase was terminated.

The crash in Ulmarra occurred about 5.40pm and police told the court the car travelled the 81km between Woodburn and Ulmarra at an average speed of 127kmh.

Correction: The offending driver is aged 16 and he will turn 17 at the end of this month. The Daily Examiner miscalculated his age in today's print edition as 17.

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