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Pub crash driver ‘ignored medical alerts’

Vivek Bhatia and his 11-year-old son Vihaan were also killed in the crash.
A man has been charged over a horrific crash that claimed five lives and tore two families apart.

Detectives have claimed in court a diabetic man “ignored” medical alerts about his blood sugar before a fatal car crash that claimed the lives of five people, including two children, in regional Victoria last month.

William Herbert Swale, 66, appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court shortly after noon on Monday after voluntarily attending a police station, where he was taken into custody.

He has been charged with five counts of culpable driving causing death, two counts of negligently causing serious injury and seven counts of reckless conduct endangering life.

William Swale has been charged with five counts of culpable driving causing death over the Daylesford crash on November 5, 2023. Picture; Supplied
William Swale has been charged with five counts of culpable driving causing death over the Daylesford crash on November 5, 2023. Picture; Supplied

Police have been investigating after a white BMW SUV ploughed through the beer garden of the Royal Daylesford Hotel where two families had been enjoying a Sunday evening on November 5.

Detective Sergeant Peter Romanis told the court that Mr Swale’s vehicle failed to make a right-hand turn and travelled “straight into the grass reserve”, killing five people and injuring others about 6.07pm.

FATAL ACCIDENT DAYLESFORD
Police have been investigating the crash for more than a month. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Josie Hayden
Pratibha Sharma, Jatin Kumar and nine-year-old Anvi.
Pratibha Sharma, Jatin Kumar and nine-year-old Anvi were killed in the crash.
Vivek Bhatia and his 11-year-old son Vihaan were also killed in the crash.
Vivek Bhatia and his 11-year-old son Vihaan (not pictured) were also killed in the crash.

Mr Swale was taken to the Ballarat Base Hospital after first responders found him “effectively unable to communicate” at the scene, two days later he provided a “no comment” interview, Sergeant Romanis said.

Shocked onlookers, among more than 140 witnesses police had interviewed, observed him appearing “sweaty, hot and clammy” after the crash.

The court was told Mr Swale had been living with insulin-dependent diabetes since 1994 and used a continuous blood glucose monitor connected to his phone to “effectively” manage the condition.

He had been placed on a conditional drivers licence requiring assessment from an endocrinologist every two years, which he passed in June.

“The endocrinologist’s report stated it remains well controlled and the accused was hypoglycaemic-aware,” Sergeant Romanis said.

FATAL ACCIDENT DAYLESFORD
Carnage was left behind in the wake of the crash. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Josie Hayden

Mr Swale had been making his way home after attending a multi-day national clay target shooting championship in Clunes — a half-hour drive west of Daylesford.

Less than an hour before the fatal crash, Sergeant Romanis said Mr Swale checked his blood glucose level, finding it “well outside” the parameters set by the phone application.

Prosecutors allege he “ignored” eight further alerts by his phone between 5.20pm and 6.06pm before he lost control of the car.

The collision can be attributed to a failure to treat his blood glucose levels,” Sergeant Romanis alleged.

A family of three visiting from Melbourne was wiped out when they were struck by the car, with Pratibha Sharma and Jatin Kumar killed in the crash and their nine-year-old daughter Anvi later dying in hospital.

Their friend Vevek Bhati and his 11-year-old son Vihann died at the scene, while his partner and six-year-old son were injured.

Also injured was a 43-year-old Kyneton woman, a 38-year-old Cockatoo man and an 11-month-old baby boy.

Car Into Hotel
The remnants of what was intended to be a family day out could still be seen the following morning. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brandan Beckett
Car Into Hotel
Police have been combing over evidence for the past month Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brandan Beckett

Mr Swale’s lawyer, Martin Amad, told the court that his client had effectively managed his condition for decades and his actions on the day were “inconsistent with all he’s done previously”.

“It’s the defence case there’s a reason for that,” he said.

“We don’t know if he was in a position to adequately understand the alerts.

There are real issues here … it’s either a lot of jail or no jail — the defence aren’t simply plucking at straws.”

The court was told Mr Swale did not have a criminal history apart from a speeding conviction in June 1989, but had racked up 32 penalty notices — mainly for “excessive” speed — over his driving history.

A decision on whether to grant Mr Swale bail was reserved by magistrate Brett Sonnet.

Mr Swale will return to court on Friday.

Occurring during daylight hours on the unofficial Melbourne Cup long weekend, the crash sent shockwaves through the Daylesford community and across Australia.

Dozens of residents travelled to the site to lay flowers and express their sadness at the shock deaths.

Car Into Hotel
Dozens of flower bouquets were laid in tribute in the days after the crash. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brendan Beckett
Car Into Hotel
Locals comforted each other in the wake of the tragedy. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brendan Beckett

More than 100 people gathered at a nearby park for a public vigil just 24 hours after the crash.

Hepburn Shire Mayor Brian Hood said the incident would likely have an “everlasting impact” on the tight-knit community.

“It was such a severe event, the scale and size of it, the impact of it, it will have an impact for quite some time,” he said.

In the wake of the crash, a woman from a business next to the Royal Daylesford told NCA NewsWire that she and her staff saw some of the bodies on the pavement.

“We’re all pretty shocked,” she said.

“It’s pretty bad, I’ve never seen anything so traumatic in my life.”