Driver admits killing blind man, guide dog

·2-min read

Ray Meadows was an early bird and a go-getter who started every morning by walking to the gym with his guide dog.

He and Gerry had been paired two months earlier and trained together in their regular daily activities, including the safest way to travel the route into Wedderburn.

For five years before that Mr Meadows, who was legally blind, had used a white cane to get around including on the walk from his four-hectare property along the Calder Highway, north of Melbourne.

On June 2, 2019 he and Gerry left the house as usual, crossing the highway so they could walk facing oncoming traffic.

Valma Meadows saw them heading off together down the long driveway, Mr Meadows in a hi-vis vest and both of them wearing flashing lights.

Moments later she heard Mr Meadows and Gerry being fatally struck by a car driven by 22-year-old Billy-Jo Salter.

He had left a friend's house, after a sleepless night, just three or four minutes before crashing into Mr Meadows and Gerry.

Salter flagged down a passing car, telling witnesses he thought he'd killed someone. Mrs Meadows, having heard the crash, arrived at the scene. An air ambulance was called but her husband didn't survive his critical injuries.

While crash reconstruction confirmed Mr Meadows and Gerry had been walking on the road's shoulder, as they had trained to do safely, Salter told police they had been on the road.

Kristen Evans said she was mad that Salter had used her father's vision to his benefit and taken so long after the crash to admit he was in the wrong.

He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing Mr Meadows' death. He also admitted destroying evidence - by removing and telling a friend to snap and throw away an SD card from his car's dash camera.

In a pre-sentence hearing in Victoria's County Court on Thursday, Mrs Meadows said she had sold their property and moved to Melbourne after losing her husband.

"I'm not saying I have hatred against you, but I'm saying I will never forgive you," she told Salter.

The fatal crash also made guide dog trainer Yoav Ortov question whether he had a role in the tragedy.

"I've questioned my own decision-making and asked myself if I gave Ray the best advice for walking on that road with his seeing eye dog Gerry," he told the court in a statement.

Salter's lawyer David Gibson said he had stayed at the scene in circumstances where it would have been easy to drive off, and was pleading guilty knowing jail was inevitable.

He said Salter had time to reflect on what happened and noted that he also had a suite of emotional and mental deficits which, to some extent, had informed his behaviour.

Salter, who is on bail, will be sentenced at a later date.

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