Man acquitted of causing the death of his 12-year old sibling in Cospicua traffic accident

A young man from Senglea accused of causing the death of a 12-year-old has been acquitted of all charges against him after both the Magistrate’s Court and the Court of Appeal agreed that it could rule out that the accident was caused as a result of damage to the car the accused was driving, which in turn had caused the collision with another car.

The incident, which claimed the life of 12 year old Alashia Azzopardi took place on May 10, 2017, at around 9.15 p.m., in Three Cities Street in Cospicua. The girl died the day after the accident at the hospital.

Azzopardi was a passenger in an Isuzu Gemini car driven by Ephrayel Azzopardi, who was then 20 years old, and accompanying them were their brother Shemizen Azzopardi and Cheyenne Azzopardi, the girlfriend of the accused, who were 17 years old.

In addition to causing the death of his sister, Ephrayel Azzopardi was also accused of causing serious injuries to his brother and girlfriend as well as causing slight injuries to James Farrugia, the driver of the other vehicle.

He was also accused of driving in a dangerous and negligent manner, causing damage to the Toyota Fun Cargo driven by Farrugia and not wearing a seat belt.

In Court it emerged that the accused was driving in the direction of Cospicua and when he applied the brakes, he felt the car pulling, he tried to disengage the gear but got this got stuck and eventually the car went on the other side of the road and the accident occurred.

Two court nominated experts on the incident disagreed on what had led to its occurrence.

While Mario Buttigieg concluded that the accused was driving excessively and that was the impact was violent, Engineer Karl Vella concluded that the damage to the tyre may have existed prior to the accident and had led to the accused losing control of the vehicle.

The report also revealed that none of the passengers in the car were wearing a seat belt and the rear seats did not even have a seat belt.

The report did not attribute any responsibility on Farrugia who testified that when he entered the Għajn Dwieli tunnel he saw a car coming towards him from the opposite direction.

The Magistrates Court found Azzopardi guilty of not wearing a seat belt after concluding that it was not proven that he had driven recklessly and caused the accident.

However, the Advocate General appealed and the Court of Criminal Appeal, presided by Judge Edwina Grima, also concluded that no evidence had been brought to substantiate the claim that the accused had driven negligently and that one of the experts had concluded that the damaged car might have caused the accident.

The Court concluded that the defence had proven on a balance of probability that that the accused had lost control of the vehicle, not because he was driving negligently but because the car wheel had suffered damage which had led to the accident’.

The Court also dismissed the point raised by the Advocate General that the car was fitted with a larger engine than it originally had and agreed with the First Court that this did not prove that the accused was driving excessively and also dismissed the claim made by the police who had heard the father of the accused telling him that he had long told his son not to drive much, because the Court said that the father had not seen the accident happen.

Judge Grima added that no evidence was brought to prove that Ephrayel Azzopardi was under the influence of drinking.

For these reasons the Judge upheld the sentence of the Magistrates Court and acquitted the accused of all charges with the exception of the charge related to the accused not wearing a seat belt.