A two vehicle crash at the intersection of Lake Clarendon Way and Forest Hill-Fernvale Rd in Glenore Grove at 8am on Monday, April 23, 2018, has claimed the life of a 63-year-old woman.
A two vehicle crash at the intersection of Lake Clarendon Way and Forest Hill-Fernvale Rd in Glenore Grove at 8am on Monday, April 23, 2018, has claimed the life of a 63-year-old woman.

Grandma on school run dies, driver gets jail term suspended

A GRANDMOTHER driving her two granddaughters to school died when her car was T-boned by an elderly woman who failed to give way at the junction on a rural road.

The driver at fault was 82-year-old Narelle Barwick, a police officer's widow from Lowood. And the crash scene has been the site of other accidents Ipswich District Court heard and required vigilance by drivers.

Now aged 84, Barwick, with her son and daughter-in-law at court to support her, this week went before Ipswich District Court to be sentenced over the fatal crash at Glenore Grove that killed Irene James, 63, from Clarendon.

Barwick pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death on April 23, 2018.

The crash occurred at 8am that Monday when Barwick, driving a red Ford Focus travelling east on Lake Clarendon Way, collided with a silver coloured Ford Falcon driven by Mrs James.

Both cars overturned leaving Mrs James' husband injured - trapped by his seatbelt hanging upside down in the wreckage.

Their two traumatised granddaughters were not injured and able to free themselves.

Barwick, who was returning home after an early morning swim, was badly injured and flown to Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.

Defence barrister Jacob Robson said Barwick had driven for more than 60 years and held a completely unblemished driving record.

He tendered a news story from the Gatton Star about the particular intersection, saying there had been several articles written.

Mr Robson said an assessment of the site had been done by Main Roads before the tragedy with deficiencies identified including visual cues.

He said one article included comments from a Lockyer MP about the site saying that there seemed to be a tunnel-like affect in the way the intersection 'creeps up on you'.

Mr Robson noted that its then 100km/h speed limit had now been corrected - the approach regulated to a reduced speed.

"Mrs Barwick learned of the tragic consequences of the accident while in hospital. She had a huge stress reaction to this," Mr Robson said.

He outlined her blameless life as the wife of a police officer, mother of two, and her employment in the office of a barrister after she completed her schooling at Brisbane Girls Grammar in 1948.

TRAGIC CRASH: Driver Narelle Barwick, 84, leaves Ipswich Courthouse.
TRAGIC CRASH: Driver Narelle Barwick, 84, leaves Ipswich Courthouse.

On the morning of the accident she was heading home after swimming for exercise to assist her health.

Since turning 80 she had a yearly medical assessment to continue driving and drove out of necessity in the independence.

No alcohol, drugs or speed were involved and Mr Robson in his defence submission said a significant contributing factor was the challenging nature of the road that had not been appreciated by Barwick who had not driven it before.

Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC said the facts demonstrated why an activity of daily living engaged in so routinely could not be taken for granted.

And how in an instant wreak horrible harm rendering the driver with a serious criminal offence.

He said people could only imagine the horror and fear felt by the granddaughters of Mr and Mrs James then aged 14 and 9.

This moment had forever changed the lives of the families and people involved, including Mr James who suffered the sudden and tragic loss of his beloved wife, he said.

He said both vehicles had been travelling well below the speed limit at the time with no aspect of recklessness until Barwick failed to give way.

She had apparently failed to observe the give way sign.

He said a Main Roads crash assessment report reveals accidents at the site in January 2016 and April 2017.

It was noted there was potential for drivers to "see through it" when approaching the intersection.

An upgrade project through Safer Roads had already been approved at the time of the fatal accident.

Judge Horneman-Wren said Barwick in her 60 years of driving had an entirely unblemished history and with no traffic infringements.

He disqualified her driving licence absolutely, saying it would be significant punishment in itself and impact on her independence.

If she served any jail time at her age of 84 it would be more onerous than on other prisoners.

Barwick was convicted and sentenced to two years jail, suspended immediately for four years.