Adem Arpaci (left) has been found guilty of culpable driving that caused two deaths (file).The father of a teenager killed in a high-speed car chase in Melbourne has described how he is plagued by flashbacks of the charred remains of his “baby girl”.
Ivana Clonaridis, 18, and Harley Churchill, 19, died on January 27, 2016 when their ute exploded in a fireball while drag racing Adem Arpaci, then 21, along the Western Ring Road.
Arpaci was found guilty by a jury of two counts of culpable driving after he goaded others to participate in a high-speed race following an illegal skids meeting, where drivers go to perform and watch burnouts.
Witnesses claimed they saw the two vehicles “flying past” before Mr Churchill lost control of his ute at 182 km/h.
The vehicle smashed through a road barrier, down an embankment and caught fire.
A statement from Ms Clonaridis’ father, Ignos, was read to the County Court of Victoria on Monday.
He grieved his “baby, my little girl”, who he said he was never able to hold “one last time”.
“The night I found out about my daughter’s tragic death, the ground disappeared from under my feet,” he said.
“I went to the crash site until the sun came out … I thought ‘why was it my baby girl and not me?'”
Mr Clonaridis said as a result of the grief, his relationship with his new wife broke down and he was no longer able to work and support himself.
“I often have flashbacks of seeing my daughter’s charred remains at the mortuary,” he said.
“My happiness died that night with my baby girl.”
Defence lawyer Russ Hammill said Arpaci, now 23, had no previous criminal history and was otherwise a young man of “exemplary character”.
He also said Mr Churchill had influenced Arpaci’s behaviour to some extent on the night in question, a matter conceded by the Crown.
“Their joint encouragement held with each other – as much as it cuts one way, it cuts the other,” he argued.
However, Judge Frances Hogan denied the mutual encouragement reduced Arpaci’s moral culpability, referring to his “ducking and weaving”, his high speeds and the fear other drivers experienced as the two sped past.
Mr Hammill said Arpaci was young, remorseful and had become “a recluse”, finding himself “mentally decomposing” after the fatal race.
Judge Hogan said she would need to “reflect long and hard” before sentencing Arpaci on March 16.