Mat Kavanagh died during the bushfire crisis while working to put out unattended campfires. (Supplied: Victorian Government)
A man charged over the driving death of a Victorian firefighter has been refused bail, after prosecutors raised concerns he would “go bush” and try to avoid prosecution.
- Mat Kavanagh was a passenger in a firefighting ute involved in a collision with Novak Selby’s four-wheel drive
- In a police record of an interview, Novak Selby expressed concerns about a jail sentence saying he would “go bush”
- Magistrate Susan Wakeling denied bail because of his “explicit” statement that he would go bush
Novak Selby, 46, has been charged with dangerous driving causing death over the crash near Eildon on January 3 this year.
He was a passenger in a firefighting ute driving along the Goulburn Valley Highway when it collided head-on with Mr Selby’s four-wheel drive.
Mr Kavanagh and his colleague were returning to the town of Alexandra to refill the water tanks when Mr Selby allegedly hit them while driving on the wrong side of the road.
Court documents showed there was good visibility in the area, even though there was smoke in the region from nearby bushfires.
There were no signs of tyre marks on the road to indicate braking or an attempt to avoid the oncoming car, the documents showed.
‘I’m not going to jail’
During a bail hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, police investigator Detective Sergeant Christian Von Tunk told the court about a police record of an interview with Mr Selby after he had been released from hospital following the crash.
Mr Selby told police he would “hook up the caravan and go bush” because he feared going to jail and leaving his son alone, Sergeant Von Tunk said.
“Cos I’m not going to jail. Sorry I’d rather be in a box than go to jail,” Mr Selby said.
Police, at the time, were concerned Mr Selby intended to harm himself.
“I’m absolutely terrified,” Mr Selby said in the record of the interview with police, the court heard.
“I feel like I’ve just thrown my whole life away and I don’t even remember it.”
Sergeant Von Tunk said partway through the police interview, Mr Selby’s “demeanour” changed when he became “aware of the death and causation”.
“The realisation came over him,” he said.
“He was quite teary and upset by the circumstances.”
Mr Kavanagh was survived by his wife, Jude, and his two young children Ruben and Kate. (Supplied: Victorian Government)
Mr Selby told investigators he was not on the phone at the time and was not distracted.
Cannabis was found in his system but the court heard it was not a factor police relied upon.
Mr Selby had spent three days in hospital for treatment of a head injury after the crash and the “dissection of the vertical artery,” his defence lawyer Julie Buxton said.
She told the court Mr Selby was “severely distressed” and “distraught” over the incident and was willing to abide by strict bail conditions.
Police opposed bail, citing concerns that he was a flight risk because he had lived in Tasmania and Queensland in the past.
Court documents show he told police he wanted to “disappear into the large bushland between Eildon and the border or will go to Thursday Island [in far north Queensland]”.
Accused driver suffered PTSD from 2009 bushfires
They were also concerned about the caravan park where Mr Selby said he would be living if he was granted bail.
“Two years?” he had asked during the police interview, a reference to a possible jail sentence.
Ms Buxton told the court her client had strong ties to the community and was needed to help his ageing parents who had health issues.
The court heard he had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the 2009 bushfires in Victoria, in which 173 people died.
“It’s an unfortunate coincidence that the circumstances of this matter also arises in the context of devastating Victorian bushfires,” Magistrate Susan Wakeling said.
But she denied his request for bail.
“He asserted he would not go to jail, that he would … take his partner, his child, his caravan and his vehicle and to go bush or to Thursday Island,” she said.
“It was a very explicit statement made by him.”
Dressed in a suit and tie, Mr Selby held his hand in his head at times during the hearing and wiped his eyes with a tissue as his distressed partner watched on.
The case has been adjourned until mid-June.