MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A truck driver was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Wednesday for hitting and killing four police officers on an Australian freeway.
Mohinder Singh was drug-effected and sleep-deprived when his truck veered into an emergency stopping lane of Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway where three policemen and a policewoman were standing after stopping a speeding car on April 22 last year.
The four died at the scene.
Singh, 48, pleaded guilty in the Victoria state Supreme Court last year to four counts of culpable driving causing death, three charges of drug trafficking and one of possessing illicit drugs.
Justice Paul Coghlan sentenced Singh to 22 years in prison, backdated to the day of the accident when he was taken into custody. He must serve at least 18 ½ years before he can apply for parole.
Coghlan said the crash had “shocked the public conscience.” The judge described footage of the crash scene as “chilling.”
“The grief of those close to the victims is profound and life-changing,” Coghlan told the court. “Such grief is heightened by the sudden and unnecessary nature of the deaths.”
It was the largest loss of police lives in a single event in Victoria. Singh had taken methamphetamine and other drugs before the crash and witnesses said he had not slept in days.
“Even though justice has now been served in relation to the actual collision, no amount of punishment can replace the loss of our loved ones and the missing place at our tables that will be felt by us for the rest of our lives,” said Andrew Prestney, father of Joshua Prestney, one of the four officers.
“We are consoled by the fact that our four will not be forgotten as we continue to carry them in our hearts,” he told reporters.
The driver of the speeding Porche that the officers had stopped, Richard Pusey, will be sentenced in the Victoria County Court on April 28 after pleading guilty to several charges.
Pusey used his phone to video the officers as they died and was described by his sentencing judge, Trevor Wraight, last month as “probably the most hated man in Australia.”
The truck missed hitting Pusey because at the time he was urinating at the side of the road. But the truck destroyed his car and a police car.
Witnesses at the scene urged Pusey to help, but he shrugged them off, saying “they’re dead.”
He pleaded guilty to outraging public decency, speeding and reckless conduct. He also admitted possessing ecstasy, after returning positive tests for both ecstasy and marijuana at the time he was pulled over. He faces a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison.