Man handed suspended sentence over fatal car accident after court finds contributory negligence by victim

A 26-year-old man from Fgura has been handed a suspended sentence after he was found guilty of negligently causing the death of a pedestrian

A 26-year-old man from Fgura has been handed a suspended sentence after he was found guilty of negligently causing the death of a pedestrian, a tragedy which played out in front of the pedestrian’s 10-year-old daughter.

The incident took place in Mellieha on 9 July 2016 when Jonathan Hili struck 40-year-old Andre Debattista with his Toyota Passo as the victim was walking at triq il-Marfa, Mellieha, near Ghadira Bay.

Debattista, a father of two girls, died at the scene. He had been crossing the road with one of the children, aged just 10 when he was run over and killed. The child had to be treated for shock.

The court had heard how the family had been on a camping trip with some of the victim’s cousins. On the morning of the incident, at around 6:30am, the girl had needed to go to the toilet and, finding the public latrine closed, her father took her to the other side of the road.

The victim’s widow said that shortly afterwards she heard a loud bang and seconds after that, her daughter screaming “Daddy, Daddy!”  Not long after that, she heard another loud noise, like a car crash.

Her husband’s cousin had run to the scene to see what had happened and in the meantime, a passer-by had brought her daughter back and stopped her from going to the scene.

The daughter also testified, telling the court that she had been holding her father’s hand as they walked along the road. Suddenly, a speeding car came roaring past, very close to her and her father, who was closest to the road, disappeared.

She said she then saw her father on the ground further up the road, bleeding from a head wound. She only suffered a scratch.  The girl said she hadn’t heard any sounds of braking.

After the incident, the Toyota stopped a short distance away, leading a Subaru J10 that was behind it to pile into the Toyota’s rear end.

The victim was treated at the scene by a passing doctor and an ambulance was soon dispatched to assist the man, who unfortunately did not survive the impact.

A friend of Jonathan Hili also testified. The two had become friends at a religious group and were on their way to Ta Pinu.

The accused had been driving at around 70km/hr when two people suddenly appeared on the road in front of them. Hili had swerved and avoided hitting the girl but the male pedestrian was struck and smashed his windscreen.

Hili also testified, telling the court that he had been driving for three years at the time of the incident. The day before he had gone to three village feasts. Near where the incident occurred, there was a large tree which extended onto the pavement. The victim had walked around this tree with his daughter on the side furthest from the road.

He had been going through a difficult time at the time of the incident, his lawyers said and had been seeking psychiatric help.

Although she noted that Hili had been negligent in his driving, Magistrate Grima, presiding the court of magistrates, observed that there was contributory negligence on the part of the deceased and that the incident had had a psychologically traumatic effect on the accused, who also had a clean criminal record.

The court sentenced Hili to 12 months of imprisonment, suspended for three years and suspended his driving licence for six months.

Inspector Godwin Scerri prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Jason Azzopardi were defence counsel.