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May 1, 2019
The driver who struck and killed Australian racer Jason Lowndes will stand trial after allegedly sending text messages in the minutes leading up to the crash.
Twenty-one-year-old Billie Rodda is accused of sending seven text messages and receiving 10 in a conversation with her boyfriend, while driving on the morning of December 22, 2017. The County Court heard this week that one of those messages contained a video. After analysing data from Rodda’s phone and Lowndes’ GPS device, prosecutors allege that Rodda tried to send a further message at 10:14am but it didn’t go through due to poor reception in Mandurang, near Bendigo. They allege she struck Lowndes 68 seconds after trying to send that message.
Rodda reportedly called triple zero at 10:16am after checking on Lowndes’ condition. The 23-year-old cyclist was airlifted to hospital but died later that day.
Rodda will stand trial later this year on a charge of dangerous driving causing death. In February 2019 she pleaded not guilty to that charge. Her defence counsel, Rahmin de Kretser, said Rodda had told police she wasn’t looking at her phone at the time of the crash; rather that she had been looking down at her speedometer.
Prosecutors dispute that claim and suggest that Rodda’s inattention at the wheel makes her responsible for the young rider’s death.
Lowndes raced with Drapac Professional Cycling in 2016 before joining the Israel Cycling Academy in 2017. He was set to join JLT-Condor for the 2018 season.