Melville Bollen has been jailed for causing the derailment of a Metro train killing one person. Melville Bollen has been jailed for causing the derailment of a Metro train killing one person. Photo: Jason South
An elderly truck driver who caused the fatal derailment of a Metro train has been jailed for five years.
Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry said on Thursday that the tragic collision, which killed one passenger and injured several others, was yet another example of the extraordinary danger caused by motorists who did not comply with level crossings.
Melville Bollen, 71, who pleaded guilty to one count of culpable driving causing death and four charges of negligently causing serious injury, blamed 19 seconds of inattention for the accident.
He denied falling asleep at the wheel of the prime mover or using his mobile phone at the time.
Justice Lasry said while he was satisfied that Bollen had not been falling asleep, he said the fact the truck driver was distracted for as long as 19 seconds made it a very serious offence.
He jailed Bollen for five years with a non-parole period of two years and six months and disqualifying him from driving for five years
Justice Lasry said it was "remarkable" that Bollen had failed to keep a proper lookout when driving a heavy vehicle, but had no doubt Bollen was devastated and remorseful over the accident.
Bollen, from Narre Warren, had worked for nine consecutive days before the crash and begun work at 2.30am delivering produce for markets and supermarkets on the day of the fatal collision.
He caused a Cranbourne-bound Metro six-carriage train to derail after he crashed through boom gates at the Dandenong South level crossing into the train's path at 11.40am on November 3, 2012. The boom gates were down and red lights flashing when Bollen drove through them.
Train passenger David Cron, 43, of Cranbourne West, who was seated in the first carriage, died in the crash and several others were injured, including the train driver who suffered a fractured skull and brain injury.
The train had been travelling at 113km/h and the level crossing active for 24 to 25 seconds when the crash happened.
The Crown case was that Bollen, driving at 59km/h and towing a trailer loaded with produce, caused the crash because of 19 seconds of inattention.
One witness said Bollen appeared to have his head down for about a second and looked up startled to see the boom gates down.
After the accident, Bollen rang his boss, David Clemmens, to say he might have fallen asleep at the wheel. Mr Clemmens said Bollen told him: "Don't know, I think I must've snoozed".
Mr Clemmens warned the driver, "Don't say that, you'll get into trouble."
Bollen later told police he had a black spot in his memory leading up to the crash and was at a loss to explain what happened.
He admitted having been grossly negligent, but he was certain fatigue had played no part in the accident.
He claimed to have been in shock after the accident and his comments about falling asleep at the wheel were an attempt at the time to try to work out why the crash had happened.
Train operator Metro is taking civil action against Bollen, claiming it incurred considerable losses over damaged carriages and infrastructure.