DUI victim brings court to tears: ‘living nightmare’
A woman whose partner and best friend were killed by a young unlicensed driver in a drunken south Sydney crash feels like she's just "marking time … between what I have lost and my own death."
Tyron Knodler thought he was a "sick c***" swigging from a shoplifted bottle of Jim Beam bourbon seconds before flipping a stolen 4WD in Peakhurst in 2019, and later told police he "just legged it", agreed facts state.
Several first responders discovered beloved Canterbury Girls High School teacher Gayle Gibson and 66-year-old Gold Coast woman Carol Chambers crushed to death, while passenger Kim Alden was hospitalised for a week with a serious head injury.
Ms Alden, lawyers and several people in the Downing Centre District Court public gallery cried on Thursday as she described the night her living "nightmare" began on March 12 last year.
"The defendant killed the two people I loved most in the world, together at the same time," she said tearfully via video link from Queensland.
"I lost my life that day too."
Ms Alden slammed the repeated technical difficulties plaguing Knodler's sentence hearing, as well as a suggestion that the 22-year-old's videolink from Silverwater prison be switched off entirely due to yelling from his fellow inmates.
Ms Alden said it was hard enough that 30 supporters wanting to come had been barred from court due to coronavirus social distancing restrictions, but not even having the defendant present was unacceptable.
"My victim impact statement is a direct address to him … he needs to hear me speak," she said.
When Knodler's breath test showed he was three times the legal blood alcohol limit he told officers: "not bad aye, f***. That's why I crashed I guess."
The Revesby man will be sentenced in May for a raft of charges including manslaughter, high range drink driving in a stolen car while unlicensed and failing to stop after a car crash causing death.
Mrs Gibson, 62, her husband Tony Giorgio and their two close friends from Queensland were driving down Henry Lawson Drive around 8pm when Tyron Knodler's stolen Toyota LandCruiser crossed onto the wrong side of the road and ploughed into their Honda Jazz.
Ms Alden said they'd been out celebrating her birthday ahead of a trip to the Middle East she planned to take with Ms Chambers later that week,
"Carol was my partner, my best friend, my lover, my confidant, my supporter for over 30 years," she said.
"Now she is dead, for no good reason."
Ms Alden said she's been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm consistent with head trauma, and she still struggles with suicidal thoughts.
"I cannot imagine the future. I feel that I am treading water, marking time … between what I have lost and my own death," she said.
Mrs Gibson's traumatised husband said he staggered from the wreckage "covered in blood" with cuts all over his body after the car's windows imploded - but his first thought was his wife.
"As soon as I saw her in the back, I knew she was dead," Mr Giorgio told police.
The distressed man - who taught maths at Knodler's former high school school in Picnic Point - remembered the offender coming up to him saying, "I'm so sorry mate", before fleeing the scene.
Ms Alden, who is the godmother of the couple's eldest child, said she often wishes she had died instead, "so at least she and Tony could have lived their lives together."
"I could hear Tony wailing. Not crying, wailing. Not sobbing, wailing … it terrified me," Ms Alden said.
Knodler escaped the smash with a broken finger and while at St George Hospital that night he repeatedly apologised.
"I was just trying to see a mate and I thought I was a sick c*** and just driving, too much to drink and boom - I just f***ing tipped the car," Knodler said in a police video.
"I don't care if I get locked up for life. I deserve it …. I should suffer," he said.
But Ms Chambers' sister Barbara Clark said the senseless waste of such a beautiful person's life because of his stupid decisions was "something that I can never forgive."
"I can't get out of my head how frightened she must have been when she saw that car coming towards her … did she suffer? Who helped her? These are the thoughts going through my head when I struggle to sleep at night," an emotional Mrs Clark told the court.
Knodler, who has never held a drivers licence, thought he'd been driving up to 100 kilometres per hour in a 60kmh zone without headlights on when he lost control, mounted the median strip and hit the oncoming car.
Several onlookers reported a hysterical man slurring his words and shouting "I've killed someone … they're coming for me … I can't go to jail" while running through the streets near the crash site.
Originally published as DUI victim brings court to tears describing 'living nightmare'