Driver had baby on lap before crash: Crown

Margaret ScheikowskiAAP
A driver accused of having a baby on his lap before a crash says the boy had been in a baby capsule.
Camera IconA driver accused of having a baby on his lap before a crash says the boy had been in a baby capsule. Credit: AAP

A man accused of driving with a baby in his lap got out of his car cradling the infant straight after it glided to a stop following a crash, a jury has been told.

The man, who told police the infant had been strapped into a back seat baby capsule, got out of the driver's seat with the child in his arm, a bystander testified on Wednesday.

In a triple-zero emergency call, another bystander told the operator: "quickly please, it's a baby" who was bleeding from his eyes and his nose.

Peter Watfa, 43, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by criminal negligence of the 11-month-old baby close to his Liverpool home in Lurnea on February 25, 2019.

In the crown opening address to the District Court jury, prosecutor Ken Gilson said Watfa was driving back from the chemist in a BMW which was involved in a head-on crash with a Mercedes.

The Mercedes allegedly crossed onto the wrong side of the road when the driver may have been distracted by people on the footpath including a child on a pony.

The Crown alleges Watfa had the baby on his lap at the time of the crash, without any kind of safety harness, "so that the injuries he sustained were as a result of the accused allowing him to be in that position".

He suggested the fatal brain injuries were caused by a combination of possibilities including impact with the BMW logo, with the steering wheel, the airbag and the force of Watfa's body being thrust forward.

The baby's DNA was found on the airbag, which had been under the steering wheel prior to the accident, the prosecutor said.

Watfa told police the infant was restrained in the back seat of the car in a baby capsule and was not ejected from it.

He said after the crash he was unsuccessful in opening the rear door, so reached to the back seat through the driver's door, unstrapped the baby and got him out.

But Mr Gilson referred to the "impossibility" of the baby sustaining his injuries if he had been restrained in the back.

The alleged criminal negligence involved the "perilous" act of having a baby on his lap while driving.

But Watfa's barrister Daniel Petrushnko told the jurors to keep an open mind, telling them his client had maintained at all times the child was in the baby capsule.

But if the jury rejected this, he said Watfa's actions did not amount to gross criminal negligence and did not merit criminal punishment.

Lumea resident Deborah Cunningham testified to hearing a bang and then seeing two cars had been in an accident.

She saw the driver's door of one car open and a man got out.

"He got out of the driver's side with a baby in his arms, he was walking towards us and asked us to call for an ambulance," she said.

Her daughter Georgie said as soon as the car glided to a stop she saw a man get out of the driver's seat cradling a baby.

A recording of the mother's call to triple-zero was played to the jury, when she repeatedly yells out the operator's instructions not to move the baby before CPR is performed.

The trial continues.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails