Tasmania’s director of public prosecutions drove in the wrong lane for up to a kilometre before a fatal crash, a Hobart court has heard.
Prosecutors say Tim Ellis’s Mercedes was seen by witnesses being driven “immaculately” in an overtaking lane for traffic coming in the opposite direction.
They allege he was on the wrong side of double lines when his car collided with a Toyota Corolla being driven by 27-year-old Launceston woman Natalia Pearn, who was killed.
Mr Ellis has pleaded not guilty to negligent driving causing death after the crash on the Midland Highway a year ago.
In a police interview played to the court, Ellis said he had no recollection of the impact and a sleep apnoea episode was the only explanation for him allegedly driving in the wrong lane.
Ellis was diagnosed with the sleeping disorder 18 months before the accident, the Hobart Magistrates Court heard in evidence from his wife Anita Smith, who was in the Mercedes when it crashed.
“I do have a history of this,” Ellis said in the interview.
“I thought I’d overcome it.
“I have no other explanation.”
The court heard Ellis used an air-pressure mask to treat the condition and, on occasion, sleeping tablets.
Alcohol and drugs were not present in blood tests taken after the accident.
Ms Smith said her husband’s sleep had improved markedly since he’d received treatment.
She described him as a safe and careful driver who she had never seen fall asleep at the wheel.
Ms Smith broke down as she told the court of the moments after the impact.
“It was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard in my life,” she said.
“It was like a hole had opened up in the earth and we’d gone through it.
“I presumed I was dead.”
The Mercedes hit another car before coming to rest.
Ellis and Ms Smith suffered serious fractures.
Crash investigator Senior Constable Kelly Cordwell said the Mercedes and Toyota had collided partially head-on.
She said no evidence of sudden braking or evasive steering had been found.
Prosecutors have tended a police video with re-enactments of a similar car driving the same stretch of the highway.
They say it shows the Mercedes would have needed steering correction to stay in the overtaking lane.
Ellis has been suspended on full pay until the matter is resolved.
The hearing will continue on Tuesday.