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Dad dead in ‘irreparable’ circumstances

A single moment of inattention meant a much loved Victorian man lost his life and his newborn daughter lost the chance to know her father.

Another much loved man, a father with a daughter the same age, will spend the rest of his life in grief and remorse knowing he caused that.

There’s nothing a sentencing judge can do to affect either of those two outcomes, County Court Judge Paul Smallwood said on Friday.

Steven Smetzer and William Smith were both driving home to their families after work at dusk on a Tuesday in October 2019.

Smith, now 37, slowed as he approached a rural intersection at Nambrok, near Sale.

He hadn’t seen 35-year-old Mr Smetzer’s car coming when he pulled into the intersection.

It’s to his great credit that Smith immediately began performing CPR on Mr Smetzer, Judge Smallwood said.

He was still performing CPR when police arrived and continued until paramedics took over. Mr Smetzer could not be saved.

“I thought it was clear. I f***ing missed him, I don’t know why I missed him,” Smith told police. He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

Smith’s moral culpability was low, but the consequences were far from low, Judge Smallwood said.

Tabitha Smetzer was driving nearby when she saw the police lights. She learned of her husband’s death at the scene.

“I was still adjusting to life as a mum with a newborn when I suddenly became a widow too,” she said.

“(Our daughter) was Steve’s proudest achievement.”

It’s hard to imagine a more shocking experience, the judge acknowledged.

“These circumstances are irreparable,” he said.

“It’s a dreadful outcome for a couple of seconds inattention.”

Smith’s wife says she’s seen her husband pull away from happy moments with his children knowing there’s a family out there whose daughter isn’t experiencing those moments with her dad.

She believes if he had the choice and knowing the pain he had caused another family, he would have reversed the outcome.

“I know he will never forgive himself,” she told the court.

Smith has four children including one with special needs. His family had prepared themselves for life with him behind bars, but Judge Smallwood said prison wasn’t the only option.

He instead ordered Smith to complete 350 hours of community work over four years, and to continue undergoing mental health treatment.

Smith will also be disqualified from driving for 18 months.

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