Daniel Andrews car crash: Collision with cyclist in 2013 still disputed

The shock announcement from Daniel Andrews that he was stepping down as Victorian Premier on Tuesday has naturally been followed by questions about his legacy.

To his supporters and his detractors, Mr Andrews will be remembered for the manner in which he led Victoria through the pandemic — he was either a savior or a dictator.

His hardline approach saw Melbourne become one of the most locked-down cities on the planet.

It made him a target for critics but also conspiracy theorists who clung to two incidents and have refused to let them go.

One involved a much-publicised and ugly investigation — driven at times by the Liberal Opposition — into a fall at a holiday rental that put him in hospital.

The other was a much-less-reported car crash “conspiracy” that has plagued his office’s public relations department for almost a decade.

Mr Andrews, then Victorian opposition leader, was in the family Ford Territory being driven by his wife Catherine when it collided with a bike being ridden by 15-year-old Ryan Meuleman.

The collision took place near the Melbourne Rd and Ridley St intersection in Blairgowrie about 1.30pm on January 7, 2013.

The teen suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, internal bleeding and was left with 10 per cent of his spleen. He spent 11 days in The Royal Children’s Hospital.

Ms Andrews wasn’t breathalysed after the crash, and Mr Meuleman wasn’t given the opportunity to give a statement to police.

The Premier and his wife have consistently held that Mr Meuleman was at fault, with Mr Andrews telling reporters in 2017 that the teen was “moving at speed” when he “absolutely T-boned the car”.

The story was back in the news as recently as April this year when an unearthed ambulance report appeared to contradict Mr Andrews’ long-held claims about the 2013 incident.

The document, created by Ambulance Victoria paramedics who attended the crash scene, is at odds with the couples’ claims that they came to a “complete stop” and “turned right from a stationary position” moments before the collision.

The “Patient Care Report” reads, “15YO on bike. Struck on L side by car travelling 40 to 60kmh … PT onto bonnet, then onto windscreen which cracked on impact … thrown onto roadway.”

The document was only uncovered as part of escalating legal action by Mr Meuleman, now 25.

“The serious injuries to the left side of Ryan’s body and the observations made by the ambulance officers who attended the crash are completely inconsistent with the claims to police made by Mr Andrews and his wife that their vehicle was travelling at a low speed,” barrister Daryl Dealehr told the Herald Sun.

“The evidence appears completely at odds with what Daniel and Catherine Andrews have been claiming since the collision.”

Mr Meuleman had engaged lawyers to re-examine the incident and the circumstances surrounding the subsequent investigation and legal settlement.

He is now suing law firm Slater & Gordon for their handling of the case, asking for “a full and proper investigation into the circumstances”.

Police initially closed the case without pressing charges, and they were cleared of wrongdoing by the corruption watchdog.

Liberal Party opponents have also gone to great lengths to get to the bottom of what happened.

In August, Victorian Liberal MP Brad Battin presented an alternative theory regarding the car crash. Using visual aids, including purpose-built 3D models and a blood-splattered cardboard car, Mr Battin recreated the incident.

Engineer Colin Robertson used Photoshop and other techniques to create a 3D reconstruction of the incident, challenging the police’s diagram of events.

Mr Robertson’s reconstruction suggests that the cyclist did not collide with the side of the car, contrary to the Andrews’ claim.

“There’s so many problems and inconsistencies, I almost don’t know where to start,” he said.

Key points of contention included the bike track’s position and the point of impact, which Mr Robertson calculated to be three to four car lengths further down the road.

Mr Battin, a former police officer, expressed concern over the case’s handling and claimed that the truth was only now emerging several years later.

In his February 5, 2013 signed statement, Mr Andrews said, “We had turned right from a stationary position into Ridley St. Moments after we turned, a cyclist collided heavily with the side of our vehicle … the cyclist was travelling at speed and hit our car at a perfect right angle very heavily. I want to make it clear — the cyclist hit our vehicle.”

Catherine Andrews said in her statement, “I turned from Melbourne Rd after coming to a complete stop … just after we turned into Ridley St our car was struck heavily on the front driver’s side by a cyclist who it seems was attempting to cross Ridley St at speed from the bike path.”

During a press conference in November after news broke of Mr Meuleman’s fresh claims, the Premier batted away more than 15 questions from reporters.

“I’ve got nothing further to say,” Mr Andrews said.

A spokeswoman for the then-Premier said the matter had been “dealt with” by Tourism Minister Steve Dimopoulos at that morning’s press conference.

“This is over a decade old,” Mr Dimopoulos told reporters.

“The most appropriate authorities have investigated this thoroughly and have made no adverse findings. Beyond that, the Premier himself has answered questions on this almost as many times as he’s answered questions on Covid. This has been thoroughly examined and I really don’t have any more to say.”

– with Frank Chung

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