You ‘stole’ our children’s lives: Families rage at Buxton crash P-plater Tyrrell Edwards who was behind the wheel when devastating crash killed Lily Van De Putte, Summer Williams, Gabriella McLennan, Tyrese Bechard and Antonio Desisto
The families of five children killed in a horrific accident have revealed their heartbreaking grief and anger at the man who ‘stole’ their children’s lives with his ‘reckless and stupid’ actions.
Tyrell Edwards appeared in the Campbelltown District Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to five counts of aggravated dangerous driving causing death while driving more than 45km/h over the limit.
The 20-year-old was driving more than 35mph above the speed limit along a rural road in Buxton on September 6, 2022, when he crashed into a tree, killing his five teenage passengers.
Lily Van de Putte, 14, Summer Williams, 14, Gabriella McLennan, 15, and Tyrese Bechard, 15, were all thrown from the car and found some distance from the car.
16-year-old Antonio Desisto was hanging upside down in the passenger seat after being caught in his seat belt.
Samantha Trimarchi (dressed in white top) carries a photo of her daughter Gabby McLennan, who was one of the victims of the Buxton car crash that killed five teenage friends
Exaven Desisto (center right), the father of Antonio Desisto, one of the victims of the Buxton car crash that killed five teenagers, leaves with family and friends wearing T-shirts with the name Antonio
Tyrell Edwards is convicted of reckless driving in a crash that killed five children
More than a year after the deadly collision, devastated families and friends of the five victims filled the courtroom as they waited to hear the fate of their children’s driver.
Lily’s mother Melanie Van De Putte told the court she could not express “the insurmountable pain I feel every day” at the loss of her only child.
She cried as she said she did not understand why her daughter’s life was so tragically cut short when the accident “could have been very easily avoided.”
“The grief of losing her will mean a life sentence for me for a crime I did not commit,” Ms Van De Putte said.
Lily’s sister Brittany became emotional as she confronted Edwards directly about his “stupid decision.”
“My sister’s life was in your hands. She trusted you, we trusted you,” she said.
“You had control and you abused it.”
She emphasized that Edwards had been the adult in a dangerous situation with five children, but that he had failed to be responsible.
Lily’s aunts both wiped away tears as they explained that the “spirited” 14-year-old was “stolen from us too soon” and that they struggled every day to come to terms with her death.
“It still hurts as much today as the day Lily died,” said Lily’s aunt and godmother Brianne Osbourne.
Lily’s father John Van De Putte wore a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Think of the Five, Stay Alive’ as a nod to the road safety campaign set up in honor of the Buxton children.
‘I keep thinking about why, as an adult, you would be so reckless and flippant when it came to the rules of the road. There is no excuse,” he told Edwards during his emotional statement.
“I trusted you to keep her safe. You, as an adult, don’t.’
Mr Van De Putte said he had suffered from feelings of hatred towards the P-plate driver since the crash and felt conflicted about his sentence.
“Whatever you get, it won’t bring back the five lives,” he said. “My heart will always be heavy.”
Gabriella’s mother Samantha McLennan broke down as she told the packed courtroom that her family was “shattered” and that they would never see her daughter’s “beautiful smile” again.
“You stole five lives and you were the adult, you should have known better,” she said. “You took her life too soon.”
The grieving mother told Edwards he had “ruined” her family’s lives because he “wanted to show off and gain speed.”
“Our lives have been changed forever and will never be the same,” Ms McLennan said through tears.
“Maybe I could think about forgiveness if you showed some remorse or empathy, but you didn’t. Not even sorry.”
Lily Van De Putte (pictured) was one of five children killed in the Buxton crash
Gabriella McLennan, 15 (pictured) also died in the crash. Her mother spoke in court
She told the 20-year-old that she had “never had so much hatred and anger towards one person” as she did towards him and his lack of remorse.
“I hope that every night before you close your eyes, you remember that night and those five beautiful lives,” Mrs. McLennan said.
“You took them away from their families and this world and the entire future they had in front of them.”
Gabriella was remembered as “the heart and soul of the family” by her grandparents, who said Edwards’ “reckless and stupid actions” left them in unspeakable pain and a “moment that will haunt us forever.”
“We are left with questions that may never be answered and wounds that may never heal,” said a statement from her grandparents.
The court heard Antonio would have turned 18 this week, but instead his mother is struggling to cope with the “incredible void” his death has left in her life.
“Words cannot adequately describe the depth of my grief,” Belinda Desisto said.
“I’ll never get the chance to see him grow up.”
The Desisto family all wore T-shirts in honor of Antonio, who was 16 years old when he died in the crash.
Antonio Desisto, 16, is pictured on the right with his grandmother. Antonio died in the crash last year
His father Exaven White also had his son’s name tattooed on his head as a permanent tribute to his ‘best friend’ and ‘love of my life’.
“I lost my son through a careless and avoidable act of stupidity,” he told the court.
“Parents shouldn’t have to bury their child.”
Mr White broke down as he told the court he would sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his son, who is now in an urn, rather than have his whole life ahead of him.
He said he is “literally broken” and “full of guilt, pain and anguish” over the loss of his “kind, caring boy with the heart of a giant.”
“Regardless of the outcome, I have a life sentence here,” he said, wiping away tears.
“The perpetrator should… be the one who gets a life sentence.”
His daughter Angela, Antonio’s sister, told Edwards that he had “ruined my life” and that every day was a struggle for their family, which would never be the same after losing Antonio.
Despite the terrible impact the crash had on her family, she said she hoped the P-plate driver would be able to continue driving.
“To the man who took my brother’s life, I forgive you,” she said, crying.
“I hope that one day you can learn to forgive yourself eventually.”
Antonio’s grandmother Marilyn said the loss of the ‘humble, loving’ boy left the family in ‘unending torment’ and a ‘living nightmare’.
“Tyrell had only one job to do that night and that was to get our boy Antonio home safely. He didn’t succeed,” she said through tears.
According to the agreed facts, Edwards was driving his mother’s Nissan Navara along East Parade in Buxton shortly before 8pm when he lost control of the car.
Summer Williams, 14 (pictured) also died in the 2022 Buxton car crash
The car had only four seat belts, but five passengers were illegally packed into the car as the P-plater reached a speed of 117 km/h on the 60 km/h road.
He picked up Tyrese and Antonio in the afternoon and they went for a joy ride through the countryside, reaching speeds of up to 90 mph (147 km/h).
Edwards used his mobile phone to film himself crossing the road with loud music blaring.
On his way to pick up Summer, he could be heard in a Snapchat video saying, “We’re going 100 (mph) the whole way.”
The 20-year-old was traveling at 70mph on the rural road when he lost control.
The Nissan Navara veered onto the wrong side of the road and crashed into a tree before bouncing off another tree.
The violent impact tore the cabin apart, forcefully ejecting Tyrese, Gabriella, Summer, and Lily.
Tyrese Bechard, 15 (pictured) was thrown from the car in the crash that killed him
All four were found a short distance from the wreckage with Antonio trapped upside down by his seat belt.
Edwards suffered minor injuries and was the only survivor of the horrific crash.
Local residents reported hearing a ‘huge explosion’ and frantically shouted triple-0.
The P-plate driver was heard shouting ‘Get me out of here, I can’t stay here’ as he was trapped in the cab.
He managed to free himself by pushing out the windshield and climbing out.
“I’m going to jail, I can’t go to jail, I don’t want to go to jail,” he told witnesses at the scene.
He later told police that the last thing he remembered was “just losing control” and ending up “in a tree.”
According to court documents, the P-plate driver had been suspended twice before the fatal crash.