News National Army driver denies skylarking in troop carrier before fatal crash

Army driver denies skylarking in troop carrier before fatal crash

Former Australian Army soldier Alexander Gall outside a Sydney court in March. Photo: AAP
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A former Army sapper has denied he was “burning with embarrassment” before crashing a troop carrier, killing a fellow soldier and seriously injuring several others.

Sapper Jordan Penpraze died on October 8, 2012, after the six-tonne personnel vehicle, called a Unimog, flipped at the Holsworthy military barracks on the way back from a training camp.

On Friday, Alexander Gall gave evidence to a Commission of Inquiry into the causes of the accident.

At the time, Gall had only been driving a Unimog professionally for five days.

Earlier this year a NSW District Court jury found Gall not guilty of serious driving charges, including dangerous driving causing death.

Mr Gall told the inquiry he had trouble remembering details from the period, including how fast he was going when the Unimog toppled on a left-hand bend.

He flatly denied evidence by fellow soldiers that on the day before the incident, he had tried to make the truck “drift” while driving 70 kilometres per hour on a dirt road and using his mobile phone.

‘I didn’t feel it [the speed] was that high,” he told the inquiry.

The inquiry has heard almost all the troops aboard the troop carrier clashed with Mr Gall over his driving when the trip ended.

One, with whom he was friendly, grabbed him by the neck and said, “mate you’re a f*****g idiot. You could really put us all in danger, you could have rolled it.”

Mr Gall said he disagreed with the account.

He said he could not recollect another sapper saying to him “You’re a d***head, you have not even taken into account we are in the back without seatbelts”.

Matthew Vesper, appearing for the Penpraze family, put it to Mr Gall that he felt a “burning sense of embarrassment and humiliation” after a series of incidents while driving in the three days leading up to the Mr Penpraze’s death.

Gall was known for the ‘Austin Powers turn’

The inquiry heard he had been sidelined after breaking his knuckle punching a parking metre after drinking alcohol, and had been humiliated by a supervisor in front of fellow troops over his driving.

He was also associated with a turning manoeuvre that went wrong and became known as the “Austin Powers turn”.

Mr Vesper said: “You had lost face with your fellow sappers and tried to make it up with some flash driving.”

“No sir, ” Mr Gall replied.

Questioned about the day of the accident, Mr Gall became visibly distressed but elected to continue giving evidence.

He could not recall, but did not deny, saying to his father within minutes of the crash “I f***ed up, I f***ed up, I was going too fast. I lost control.”

Mr Gall became emotional again when he said he accepted “some responsibility” for the accident.

“I was the driver and irrespective of what went wrong, I was driving that vehicle.

“If I wasn’t driving someone would be here today … that happened on my shift and I will carry that burden for the rest of my life … I’m sorry.”

The inquiry continues.