Euroa man sentenced to eight months jail following fatal collision

By Liz Mellino

There were emotional scenes in the Shepparton County Court this morning after a Euroa man was sentenced to eight months jail following a fatal crash which killed one of his best friends in Balmattun in 2017.

Jack McKernan, 21, faced Judge John Smallwood for two charges stemming from the collision which resulted in the death of Ryley Bjorksten, 19, on November 5, 2017.

Mckernan, who also received a three-year community corrections order, had previously pleaded guilty to one charge of dangerous driving causing death and one charge of conduct endangering a person.

When delivering his sentence, Judge Smallwood described the offending as “serious”.

He read out a harrowing victim impact statement to the court written by the mother of Mr Bjorksten, outlining the significant impact his death had on her life.

The court heard how his mother had to take 12 months off work following his death saying she was left with a huge gaping hole in her heart “that can never be mended”.

The collision occurred on Faithfuls Creek Rd, Balmattum, at 2.12 am on Sunday, November 5, following a night of drinking between friends.

McKernan, then aged 19, attended the Seven Creeks Hotel in Euroa and later the ‘‘Middle Hotel’’, where he met up with some friends. That night McKernan drove a Toyota Hilux ute, with two passengers in the vehicle next to him and two unrestrained passengers seated in the rear tray.

As the vehicle travelled west on Faithfuls Creek Rd, a gravel road with a series of left and right hand curves, McKernan attempted to over-correct the ute after exiting a curve too wide.

The vehicle tipped and rolled before coming to rest on the passenger’s side, with the two men in the rear ejected.

Mr Bjorksten was trapped under the rear tray of the ute and later died of his injuries.

When sentencing, Judge Smallwood said he took into account McKernan’s early plea of guilty, his profound remorse, his lack of prior convictions and his young age at the time of the collision.

Judge Smallwood said psychologist reports stated McKernan had developed post traumatic stress disorder following the collision and because of this there was a significant risk that his emotional state would deteriorate while imprisoned.

Judge Smallwood said he acknowledged the seriousness of the offending and devastating impact it had on the families of McKernan and Mr Bjorksten.

“You were in a situation where you had been drinking, you knew you shouldn’t be driving, you were driving a vehicle with gears while you held an automatic licence and you were affected by alcohol,” he said.

“Mr Bjorksten was a well-respected and liked member of the community … clearly the loss of one so young is always a dreadful thing.”

McKernan’s sentence includes 200 hours of community work and treatment and rehab for alcohol and to reduce re-offending.