Victim's widow feels 'set up' after driver charges pursued

PAIN: Jan Spiess, above, is waiting for answers on the death of her husband Thomas.
PAIN: Jan Spiess, above, is waiting for answers on the death of her husband Thomas. Tait Schmaal

THE family of freeway crash victim Thomas Spiess is still waiting for a final death certificate and for the legal system to decide the fate of the truck driver accused of causing his death.  

Widow Jan Spiess said her family had great sympathy for Darren Hicks, who lost a leg in the crash at the bottom of the South Eastern Freeway in August 2014.   Hicks, who has since become a Paralympian, returns to the District Court on Friday to face charges of causing death and serious harm by dangerous driving.  

Mr Spiess and 41-year old Jacqueline Byrne were killed when Hicks' truck crashed into parked cars at the intersection of Cross Rd and Portrush Rd.  

Speaking at the Hallett Cove home she shared with her husband, Mrs Spiess was dismayed that legal proceedings against Hicks had "dragged on", saying she had been wrongly told by police the case against him would be dropped. 

Mrs Spiess, 59, said she "took great comfort in our united held belief that the driver had no bad intent, drugs, alcohol ... and was just as much a casualty" as her husband.  

Truck driver Darren Michael Hicks.
Truck driver Darren Michael Hicks.

"I can't get closure on anything. No death certificate, no finality, prosecution haven't started yet, it's going to be a media circus ... Knowing that it's going to go on for another three to five years is just horrendous." Mrs Spiess received an interim death certificate of her husband but will not obtain the official document until after the inquest, which will not start until criminal proceedings are completed.  

Mrs Spiess wrote that an officer from Major Crash told her that "police were no longer pursuing charges against" Hicks after The Advertiser revealed that charges against his employer, Cleanaway, had been dropped.

But she felt "ambushed" and "set up" when she heard in court that prosecutors would not drop the charges against Hicks.  

Mrs Spiess said her husband and Ms Byrne's tragic deaths could have been avoided if the State Government had lowered the speed limit on the freeway downtrack after the 2010 death of pedestrian John Posnakidis, struck by a runaway truck.

Lower limits and the construction of a third arrester bed were introduced after her husband's death and the January 2014 death of truck driver James Venning, whose vehicle hit a wall after its brakes failed.

"It turned my stomach to stone when you realised they should have done that (reduce limits) and my husband wouldn't be dead now," she said.  

Originally published as: Freeway crash victim widow Jan Spiess told charges against truck driver Darren Hicks may get dropped

Topics:  adelaide court crash victim

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