Father pens letter for teen driver after daughter’s death
The heartbroken father of a young woman who was killed when she fell from a ute has penned a letter tendered by the teenage driver in court, believing he witnessed something nobody should have to see, the death of one of his best friends.
Grace Ruhle died in a tragic accident on the evening of April 2, 2021, after she fell from a ute Hunter John Stojczan, 19, was driving along Springvale Road in Springvale, about 30km south of Dalby.
The terrible saga drew to a close in Dalby Magistrates Court on Tuesday, with Stojczan sentenced for failing to provide a specimen of breath, and for driving a vehicle where a passenger must not be in the part designed for the carriage of goods.
The prosecution offered no evidence to the previous charge of failing to remain at the scene, and it was struck out.
Stojczan's defence lawyer Christopher Copley painted a picture for the court on that fateful night, with the help of dozens of character references from witnesses, family members, and more.
Grace's father Craig Bevan Ruhle was part of these submissions, who wrote he held "no malice" towards Stojczan for his daughter's death, that he feared for the teenager's mental health, and labelled the incident as being a "terrible and tragic accident".
"I am aware of the charges, and in my understanding the one leaving the scene is somewhat unfair as I understand he was taken back to the farmhouse out of concern for his emotional state, which is human nature," Mr Ruhle's statement read.
As Mr Copley told the court his client's version of events after Grace's fall from the vehicle, a picture of despair and heartache was painted.
Mr Copley told the court Stojczan was paralysed by shock as he held Grace's body on the side of the road, surrounded by friends and family who could only look on in pain.
Another impact statement from a witness of the accident read to the court by Magistrate Tracy Mossop revealed Stojczan was in extreme distress, and was taken away from the scene by friends and family.
Grace's father acknowledged in his statement the necessity of removing the teenager from the scene of the accident.
"I am actually glad he had loving adults around him in a time of need, particularly that he had just witnessed something nobody should ever have to see, the death of one of his best friends," Mr Ruhle's statement continued.
"My personal opinion is that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a culmination of circumstances which lead to Hunter being the one who was chosen to drive my daughter's vehicle at that time."
"I'll say it again, I hold absolutely no malice toward Hunter whatsoever.
"I'm more concerned for his future and the welfare of his family."
In her closing remarks, Magistrate Tracy Mossop cited how important Mr Ruhle's reference was when considering the sentence.
"That is a significant indication that a father has taken a very common sense approach to what has happened, and despite this tragic incident of the loss of his daughter, he supports you," she said.
"You now have to honour Mr Ruhle, and make sure you continue on the right path that you've clearly been on for many, many years."
Stojczan pleaded guilty and was fined $900 for failing to provide a specimen of breath, and disqualified from driving for nine months.
A conviction wasn't recorded.
For the second vehicle charge he was fined $1200, with a conviction recorded.
Originally published as Father pens letter for teen driver after daughter's death