BEIRUT: Lebanon has pledged to investigate the death of four expat children who were killed in a Sydney suburb by a drunk driver, saying it will “clarify the truth” about the tragedy.
Three Lebanese siblings and their cousin died on Saturday night when a SUV mounted the sidewalk and struck them. Another three children were injured.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m numb,” Abdallah said. “All I want to say is please, drivers, be careful.”
“These kids were just walking innocently, enjoying each other’s company ... and this morning I woke up and I have lost three kids,” he added. His children Antony, 13, Angelina, 12 and Sienna, 9, were killed. Their 10-year-old bother was in serious but stable condition.
Abdallah and his wife Leila had had six children. He said his cousin lost an 11-year-old child, Veronique Sakr. Two other girls aged 10 and 13 suffered minor injuries, authorities said. “The driver, a 29-year-old man, and a 24-year-old male passenger were uninjured,” said Australian police. “The driver, Samuel Davidson, was subjected to a roadside breath test and returned a positive result. The driver has now been charged with 20 offenses.”
The charges include four counts of manslaughter and four counts of dangerous driving occasioning death. The charges against him were read in a Sydney court on Sunday. He did not appear in court and was refused bail until his next court appearance on April 2.
He has not entered any pleas. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Jason Joyce said the driver remained at the scene until the police arrived and there were indications his 24-year-old male passenger tried to help some of the children.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab expressed his grief in a tweet, saying it was a “catastrophe” that afflicted the whole of Lebanon, not just the victims’ families. “All of Lebanon feels sorry,” he added.
Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti instructed the country’s ambassador to Australia to provide all possible assistance to the victims’ families, while Justice Minister Marie Claude Najem tweeted: “Investigations will be conducted by the competent judicial authorities in Australia, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to clarify the truth.”
The girls, aged between 8 and 12, and a 13-year-old boy died immediately at the scene. Two girls and a boy were taken to hospital, where they are being treated and are in a stable condition. Abdallah said the injured boy, Charbel, was in a coma and that his third daughter, Mabelle, was fine.