Sakshi Agrawal, 24, allegedly ran into an aged care worker trying to get on a tram on Wattletree Road, Armadale, in Melbourne‘s south-east at 6.30 am in March last year.
The victim, Nicole Lagos, then aged 26, sustained horrific injuries in the crash that left her in a critical condition at The Alfred hospital.
Agrawal turned herself into the police after allegedly fleeing the accident.
She was arrested and then taken back to the scene in handcuffs.
Sakshi Agrawal (pictured second right) was taken back to the scene in handcuffs after being arrested in March last year
Agrawal appeared in the Melbourne’s Magistrate Court on Monday charged with driving in a manner dangerous causing serious injury, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to render assistance, and negligently causing serious injury.
During a hearing in May, the court heard Agrawal had her $68,000 model 3 Tesla set to ‘autopilot’ when she allegedly hit the pedestrian.
It remains unclear if Agrawal maintains that defence, with media denied access by Magistrate Natalie Heynes to all documents except the charge sheets.
Agrawal is in the process of a pre-trial committal hearing in which multiple witnesses are expected to be called.
On Monday, Agrawal’s barrister Joanne Poole grilled the 35-year veteran tram driver, accusing him of failing to follow the Yarra Trams rule book when it came to how he stopped the tram on the morning of the incident.
The driver told the court he had followed the correct procedures.
But when questioned, the driver said he may not have checked his mirrors before opening the tram doors.
‘You didn’t check the mirrors, because had you checked … you would have seen a vehicle passing and you wouldn’t have opened the doors,’ Ms Poole suggested.
‘I don’t accept that … I don’t think I made a mistake,’ the driver responded.
The driver claimed he had engaged the tram’s hazard lights before coming to a complete stop to pick-up Ms Lagos, who tuned into Monday’s hearing via video link.
Police are pictured at the scene of an alleged hit and run incident in Melbourne in March
The tram driver told the court he had not received any additional training since becoming a driver 35 years ago and had no idea of a rule book published by Yarra Trams in 2017.
‘One of those rules is prior to opening doors, drivers must check all mirrors to ensure the immediate area is clear of moving vehicles,’ Ms Poole told him.
‘You accept that’s how it’s supposed to be done, but that’s not what was done on this occasion.’
While the driver said he could not recall the minute details of what happened that morning, he was sure he would have checked for traffic before opening the tram doors.
‘I would have done that at that time,’ he maintained.
‘It was dark. It was 6.30 in the morning and the lights were on. And it was pretty dark at the stop … I must have looked in the mirror and God only knows who has done the wrong thing there, but I did what I did as a tram driver.’
Ms Poole further suggested the tram driver opened the tram’s doors after Ms Lagos had already been struck.
‘The passenger was walking toward the tram after I opened the doors,’ the driver responded.
‘I was stopped … and when I opened the doors the passenger started to walk.’
The tram driver claimed Agrawal was travelling so fast he did not even realise Ms Lagos had been struck.
‘Whoosh something went past and I was wondering “what the hell”. She was just there, 10 seconds away from getting in the tram and she was missing,’ he said.
Agrawal partner (pictured) told Channel Nine she panicked and was going to return to the scene
The driver further denied accusations he had opened the tram’s doors before the tram had come to a complete stop.
‘It was stopped. The tram was stopped and I was waiting for the passenger to get in,’ he insisted.
Yarra Trams’ chief safety manager told the court the tram door could not be opened while the tram was in motion.
At the time of the incident, Agrawal’s claims to Victoria Police about her car’s autopilot were reportedly the first time Australian major collision officers were to investigate a case involving a Tesla.
Autopilot is a driver assistance system for Tesla vehicles which allows the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane.
The system still requires drivers to be aware of their surroundings and have their hands on the wheel.
Detective acting Senior Sergeant Jarrod Dwyer, from the major collision investigation unit, said it was still relatively dark when the car allegedly hit Ms Lagos and dragged her between 15 and 20 metres.
He said Agrawal had panicked after the collision and left the scene, but returned shortly after in the company of a friend.
She expressed remorse when she returned to the scene with the police and was ‘quite hysterical,’ Sgt Dwyer said.
Agrawal’s partner, who returned with her to the scene, said the collision was ‘just a normal accident, it happens every day’.
‘She was going to come back anyway. She was a bit scared,’ he said.
Agrawal was granted bail despite police objecting to it as she could pose a flight risk.
The 24-year-old is in the country on a bridging visa and is neither an Australian citizen nor a permanent resident.
The hearing continues