IT was raining heavily and a large pool of water, “like a waterfall coming down the mountain”, gushed across Wootton Way in the moments before Mario Formosa lost control of his car and hit a tree, causing the death of his mate, Daniel Hamming.
That is, according to Mr Formosa, 40, of Wootton, north of Bulahdelah, who claims he was driving to the conditions on the windy stretch of road in the lead-up to the fatal crash at about 6.10am on October 15, 2017.
But crash investigators claim to have a witness who says Mr Formosa was travelling at “high speed” before the impact.
When the first witness came across the scene, they discovered Mr Formosa’s white Holden Commodore off to the side of Wootton Way. The vehicle’s passenger side had impacted heavily with a large gum tree and in the front passenger seat, with his seat belt still on, was Mr Hamming, 37, of Taree.
The driver’s seat was empty. Mr Formosa had fled the scene on foot before emergency services could arrive and didn’t call triple-zero until about 7am.
“I’ve had to walk so that I could get phone service away from the car,” Mr Formosa is alleged to have told the triple-zero operator.
“My friend is injured.”
Police allege the triple-zero call was made from a stolen phone and Mr Formosa did not return to the scene of the crash to assist Mr Hamming.
And despite extensive searches, Mr Formosa remained off the police radar for two weeks, including missing a court date for an unrelated matter, before he was arrested at Belmont.
Police allege he had been “staying transiently” with associates to avoid detection and at the time of his arrest he produced a Queensland driver’s license in another name.
On Wednesday, Mr Formosa, who is represented by solicitor Chris O’Brien, appeared in Newcastle Local Court via audio visual link from Cessnock Correctional Centre where he was committed for trial on the charge of dangerous driving occasioning death and pleaded guilty to failing to stop and assist after vehicle impact causing death.
He will next appear in Newcastle District Court on September 13 to get a trial date next year.
Crash investigators say an examination of the scene revealed the vehicle was heading south when it lost control on a sweeping left-hand bend, causing the car to spin out of control, hit the gutter and the large gum tree.
Police say it is believed the road may have been wet at the time of the crash.
Mr Formosa said he was travelling 60km/h, well below the 75km/h limit, when a large pool of water came rushing across the road.
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