Teen suffers lifelong injuries from crash

Karen Sweeney
·2-min read

Just days into the new term, Willow Griffiths was headed home from school in Melbourne in February when her life changed forever.

The 17-year-old paused outside her school and waited until a crossing guard signalled it was safe to cross the road outside Nazareth College in Noble Park, in Melbourne's southeastern suburbs.

There were sets of red traffic lights between the schoolgirl and a soil-loaded truck driven by Chas Nicholson.

But despite all the opportunities to stop, he didn't even brake. The crossing guard was able to push three of Willow's schoolmates out of the way, but she was struck by the truck and thrown through the air.

The teen was resuscitated at the scene as fellow students watched. Rushed to the Alfred Hospital's trauma unit, she remained in intensive care for five months and is unlikely to leave hospital before next year.

She suffered an extremely severe traumatic brain injury that is likely to result in lifelong cognitive, behavioural and physical impairments.

She'll need 24-hour support when she does make it home.

Despite everything she was able to record a statement on the impact

County Court Judge Mark Dean on Friday said that recording was a testament to her enormous courage and resilience.

"It also graphically underlines the devastating consequences, for her, of your offending," he told Nicholson, while jailing the 51-year-old for at least 18 months.

The trauma of her immediate family and wide friendship circle had also been profound and would be lifelong, he said.

The truck driver had remnants of methamphetamine and amphetamines in his system from smoking ice two days before the crash on February 6.

Willow attempted to get out of Nicholson's way as the truck came careening toward her on the pedestrian crossing. His licence was also suspended at the time.

Judge Dean said Nicholson, who himself has a teen daughter, had a longstanding history of substance abuse. But he had been abstinent since his offending.

He ordered Nicholson serve at least 18 months of a two-year-and-nine-month prison sentence before he's eligible for parole.

Nicholson, who was born in the UK and never became an Australian citizen, faces deportation upon his release.