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Family condemns ‘stupid decisions’ that killed five teenagers at Buxton crash driver sentencing hearing

A mother who lost her only child in a horrific crash that killed five teenagers has described her unimaginable pain as the surviving driver waits to learn how long he will spend in jail.

Melanie Van De Putte lost her 14-year-old daughter Lily when a speeding Nissan Navara driven by Tyrell Edwards crashed at Buxton, south-west of Sydney in September 2022.

She told the New South Wales district court at Campbelltown she had a lot of anger towards the 19-year-old Edwards, who awaits sentencing on five counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death.

“I question why this happened when it could have been avoided very easily,” she said on Tuesday.

Van De Putte said the pain of losing her only child was insurmountable and indescribable to someone who had never experienced it.

“What one imagines, I tell them to times that feeling by a million and it doesn’t even come close,” she said.

Another family member said Edwards, an adult, made “stupid decisions”.

“I just don’t understand why you would do something so dangerous that not only took five innocent kids’ lives but ruined five families,” they said.

Lily’s father, John Van De Putte, said the crash was a horrific incident, not an accident.

“There is no excuse,” he told Edwards.

Gabby McLennan, 14, was also in the Navara when it crashed along with 15-year-olds Summer Williams and Tyrese Bechard and 16-year-old Antonio Desisto.

Edwards sustained minor injuries in the crash that killed the five Picton high school students and pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death in August.

Tyrese and Antonio were picked up from a service station at Bargo shortly before 6pm and driven around Wollondilly with Edwards “frequently exceeding the speed limit”, crown prosecutor Monika Knowles told the court.

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Edwards reached up to 147km/h and filmed himself swerving from side to side, according to court documents.

He then travelled to Tahmoor to pick up Gabby and Lily about 7.15pm before picking up Summer and travelling to get more fuel.

The P-plater sped to overtake another vehicle on the wrong side of the road and was travelling at approximately 118km/h, more than double the speed limit when he crashed on East Parade at Buxton about 7.50pm.

The dual-cab ute slammed into one tree, rebounded, spun backwards and slammed into another.

The second collision tore open the rear cabin, throwing four of the five teenagers out.

Neighbours heard a “massive explosion” and raced to the scene where they saw Edwards climb out of the wreckage.

“I’m gonna go to jail. I can’t go to jail. I don’t want to go to jail,” he was heard saying.

The hearing continues on Tuesday, with another court date on Thursday as a judge considers a sentence, assisted with statements from families of the killed teenagers and psychological reports tendered on Edwards’ behalf.

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