By Gav Ross
A POOWONG North dairy farmer who employed members of the family tragically killed in a horrific road accident at Catani last Friday morning has described them as a “typical, happy, farming family” who loved their animals.
Police said the Beckett family – Stephen 37, Jade, 33, and their children Sam, 9, Ella, 6, and William, 2 – were travelling along Heads Road in Catani just before 9am on Friday when their sedan collided with a truck at a Caldermeade Road intersection.
Only nine-year-old Sam and the driver of the truck, 27 year-old Jobandeep Gill from Noble Park, survived.
A farmer from Yannathan who witnessed the accident has been praised for his heroic efforts after he pulled Sam from the wrecked sedan moments before it erupted in flames.
The boy was taken to Royal Children’s Hospital with minor injuries and was released into the care of a family friend the following day.
Bill Loughridge, co-owner of the Kittelys Road farm where the Becketts lived and worked for over two years after relocating from Koo Wee Rup, said the family adored their menagerie of pets.
“They had a fair number of animals: horses, chooks, cats, dogs and a ferret, which we are now all tending to,” Bill said.
He said his own grandkids played with the Beckett children and that the close-knit group of workers at the farm were “like family”.
Bill said it was Stephen’s day off last Friday and the family were heading Koo Wee Rup Primary School before tragedy struck.
“They were dropping the kids off at school – they kept taking the kids there since they moved,” he explained.
The farmer said the entire district is in mourning.
“They maybe weren’t so well known here (in Poowong) but we’ve had calls from everywhere,” he said.
“They were involved with a pony club as far away as Neerim South.
“The wider community has been greatly affected.”
Bill said he travels through the intersection where the accident occurred often and that the stop signs are clearly visible, and he urged others to take care on the roads.
The farmer said offers of assistance and donations for Sam have been flooding in and he hopes an account or similar will be set up soon to assist the orphan.
‘Caring, beautiful people’
Koo Wee Rup Primary School principal Fiona Pratt said the school community has been “devastated” by the deaths.
“The Beckett family were very caring and beautiful people who will be dearly missed,” Ms Pratt said in a statement released by the school.
“They were always there for anyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting them.
“They loved life and each other – family was their world.
“Parents Stephen and Jade only wanted the best for their children.”
Ms Pratt said Ella, who was in Grade 1, was a “cheerful girl who was friends with everyone.
“She enjoyed sharing stories about helping her Dad at the dairy, horse riding and she loved learning to play the violin.
“Ella was a very caring little girl who had a kind heart.
“She will be deeply missed by her classmates and teachers.”
While two year-old William was a few years off enrolling, Ms Pratt said he was “clearly the ‘apple in the eye’ of his parents”.
“Our hearts go out to Sammy and we extend any support that is required to help him at this time,” she added.
“This is a very difficult time and I know that our school community will band together and support each other.”
Ms Pratt said additional counselling and support staff were at the school from yesterday.
Truck driver charged
Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives charged the truck driver, Jobandeep Gill, while he was under police guard at hospital late Friday.
Gill was refused bail during a bedside remand hearing and charged with four counts of culpable driving causing death, four counts of dangerous driving causing death, one count of reckless conduct endangering life and one count of failing to stop at a stop sign.
Melbourne media reported that Gill faced Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Sunday morning for a brief hearing and will return for a file hearing later this week.