Trucker's 'blackouts' insulting: family

Rick Goodman

The family of a South Australian woman killed in a collision with a truck say the driver's story that he blacked out at the wheel was insulting and wasted their time.

Victorian trucker Kenneth Laurence Pillar, 55, has been found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of 61-year-old Mt Gambier schoolteacher and grandmother Maria Dowdell.

The jury delivered the verdict in the District Court on Tuesday, rejecting Pillar's claim that he had a coughing fit and blacked out moments before the horror head-on smash in June 2015.

Prosecutors say he was in fact distracted by his girlfriend who was in the cabin of the semi-trailer with him and that the pair invented the blackout story to avoid responsibility.

Mrs Dowdell's family and supporters clapped, welled up and embraced each other as the guilty verdict was delivered, with hushed cries of "thank you", "wonderful" and "oh my God" in the courtroom.

The victim's son, Julian Dowdell, said the family was relieved by the outcome and that Pillar had wasted their time with his lies and antics in court.

"It's an insult to waste that much of our time and emotions for the sake of a lie," he said outside court.

"But we're very happy with the result and looking forward to the sentencing."

Throughout the trial, Pillar "blacked out" regularly in the dock.

He would cough and splutter before his eyes closed and his head rolled back, forcing proceedings to halt each time.

"It was obviously fake. It was quite obviously fabricated," Mr Dowdell said.

"Initially it made coming to court feel like a non-event, like the guilty verdict was guaranteed, but the defence threw that into the air."

Doctors found no physical reason for the blackouts but said they could be genuine and "psychogenic", meaning caused by psychological forces.

Pillar's lawyer said a blackout could not be ruled out as a reasonable explanation for the crash, even though its medical cause had puzzled doctors.

"If you can't exclude that as a reasonable possibility, then the Crown can't prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt," defence lawyer Nicholas Healy said.

The cement-loaded truck was travelling about 100km/h when it veered on to the wrong side of the road on a narrow bridge east of Adelaide and hit Mrs Dowdell's car.

Prosecutor Patrick Hill said Pillar and his girlfriend Belinda Thornton, 31, lied to police about what happened.

"Whatever was going on in that cabin, we say it is clear he was not paying attention to the road as he drifted right across to the wrong side," Mr Hill said.

"The coughing fits and his blackouts have been made up. And the medical evidence supports this."

The jury heard phone calls between Pillar and Thornton in which he told her "the story can't change" or else she would end up in jail as well.

The pair have also been charged with conspiring to attempt to pervert the course of justice over the alleged lies, while Thornton is charged with acts to endanger life.

Pillar's bail was continued and he will return to court in January.