Crash tragedy: Mum caused son's death, brother's brain trauma

A BROKEN family's tragedy continues, with Nambour mother of seven Olivia Cullinane ordered to serve at least 10 months jail for the death of a son in a Bruce Hwy road crash.

A jury in Gladstone District Court found Cullinane, 39, guilty of the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing the death of Yulundji Tyson-Purcell, 9; and grievous bodily harm to his brother, 4, on October 8, 2013.

Sarah Dennis for the Crown put evidence to the court that cannabis and medically prescribed methadone was found in Cullinane's system after the crash and that the four-year-old had suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury.


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Olivia Cullinane arrives at Gladstone Courthouse before the jury verdict that found her guilty.
Olivia Cullinane arrives at Gladstone Courthouse before the jury verdict that found her guilty. Ross Irby

Cullinane was in emotional distress, seated in the dock with her head in her hands, as Judge Craig Chowdhury passed sentence of 3 1/2 years, ordering that she must serve 10 months.

The remainder was suspended for four years.

Judge Chowdhury said the crash of the family's Toyota Prado, which overturned more than once about 12.30am at Benaraby, had devastating consequences.

Cullinane left Mackay at 4.30pm after a holiday to return to Nambour, Judge Chowdhury saying she had a special duty imposed on her with six children on board and luggage to be fully able to drive safely.

He said she was fatigued, had driven some distance (with stops) and consumed cannabis at some point before the crash and taken prescribed methadone.

He said she should have been aware taking cannabis with methadone was a dangerous combination.

Judge Chowdhury said the evidence was that while it was not a dominant feature, and Cullinane was not adversely affected, "it did have a contributing factor, together with fatigue and the late hour".

"It is not clear if you fell asleep or failed to have proper control of the vehicle," he said.

"It happened in a very short moment. It only takes a couple of seconds for fatal consequences."

Although not all children were in her care, Judge Chowdhury said sentencing Cullinane would cause considerable hardship to her baby and children in her absence.

"I understand if you could turn back time you would," he said.

"But we can't do that. You have suffered considerably. A special feature of your case is that you have been hit particularly hard by this."

Crying silently and with her head in her hands, Judge Chowdhury said Cullinane had shown considerable remorse and would suffer from the effects for the rest of her life.

He also acknowledged her very difficult life since childhood. In her sentencing submission defence counsel Maree Willey said Cullinane's instructions were that she had not smoked cannabis before the accident.

Ms Willey outlined Cullinane's difficult childhood and how she had left home at 12 because of family violence. She said she had a transient lifestyle, often living on the streets where she began her amphetamine use that was described as being off and on.

Cullinane was also disqualified from driving for three years.

Afterwards a stroller was pushed from the courthouse, one of Cullinane's children carrying his mother's 15-week-old baby. Also taken away was a child's teddy bear dressed in a red jacket that sat at the glass dock during some of the trial.

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