Luke texted worried mum to say he was OK, then 15-year-old driver lost control

Grieving friends pay their tributes at the scene. Photo: Justin McManus The scene of the car crash in West Sunshine. Photo: Courtesy Twitter @abcnewsMelb
Nanjing Night Net

Friends and family gather at the tree which the car struck. Photo: Justin McManus

Luke Lee lived with his mother and sisters in the western suburbs. Photo: supplied

Luke Lee’s sister Jade Lee at the scene of the crash on Tuesday . Photo: Justin McManus

A photo of Luke Lee and girlfriend Katelyn Debono attached to the tree that was hit by the car Luke was driving . Photo: Justin McManus

It was almost 10pm on Monday and Luke Lee’s mother was worried. It was late for a 15-year-old to still be out. But Luke texted her and told her he was fine.

Minutes later, the unregistered white 1995 VS Holden Commodore he was driving loaded with teenagers ploughed into a tree near a roundabout in Sunshine West.

Luke died at the scene.

A 13-year-old girl from Sunbury and a 15-year-old girl from Doreen, who were sitting in the back of the car, sustained life-threatening head injuries.

Both were taken to The Alfred hospital in a critical condition.

A 17-year-old boy who was sitting in the front passenger seat, and a 16-year-old boy who was in the back, sustained serious injuries and were taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Both boys are from Sunshine West.

Some of the passengers were trapped and paramedics were only able to help after firefighters had freed them.

It appears as if Luke was trying to negotiate a roundabout and then a slight left bend in Oldfield Street when he lost control and struck a tree about 10pm.

At the scene, debris is strewn across the nature strip and road for almost 10 metres from the tree, which is opposite a primary school.

Mourners started arriving at the crash scene about 8.30am.

Bouquets of white roses and other flowers were taped around the tree with yellow tape, as the group stood arm-in-arm amid shattered glass.

Luke’s aunt, Donna Pettiford, arrived later in the morning.

She said Luke’s mother Paula Pettiford, her sister, was told about the tragedy at 2.30am.

The last Paula heard from her son was the text message about five hours earlier.

“She got a message not long before the accident saying he was fine,” Donna said. “She was concerned he was out so late.”

Luke was a student and loved his footy, she said. He was an Essendon fan and played junior football for Albion.

Luke had two older and two younger sisters, aged from 19 to seven, and lived with his mother in the western suburbs.

Paula was heartbroken, Donna said. “It’s her only son.”

Luke’s girlfriend of about a year, Katelyn Debono, arrived at the site in tears about 11.15am.

She posted on Instagram that she was so upset that their last words to each other were in anger.

“No words could ever explain how much you really mean to me and how much I will miss you and forever love you.

“We’ve been through so much together and I’m so upset that our last words to each other was us fighting.”

The scene was jarringly peaceful and still, compared with the carnage of Monday night.

A man who witnessed the chaotic accident scene said the trapped teenagers struggled to get out.

“Two females in the back, they were frantically trying to get out, plus a third, also the passenger who was in quite a state,” Daniel Hollingworth told Nine News.

Acting Sergeant Trent Hewet said speed, driver inexperience and the roadworthiness of the car contributed to the crash.

It was too early to say whether drugs or alcohol were a factor, he said. 

It appeared the left wheels of the car mounted the left gutter of the road as the driver exited the roundabout, he said, causing the car to lose traction and fling it toward the tree.

But Acting Sergeant Hewet also said the tyres on the car, which was owned by a friend of one of the occupants, were almost bald.

“You’re 15. You’re not invincible. Don’t get in a car,” he said. “A split second decision can change a life.

“A 15-year-old’s family are not going to have him home for Christmas.”

He said the girls in the car remained in a critical condition when police last checked at 11am.

Among the stream of mourners to the crash site were Hannah and Tyler.

The girls, both 15, sat on the footpath behind and to the right of the tree, listening to music.

Tyler said Luke was a loving, caring, amazing boy.

“He had a heart of gold.”

Hannah used to be a classmate of Luke’s. She said he was funny, and looked out for others.

“If he could see a kid who was alone he would always go up to them to see if they were ok.

“If he’d see them walking around he would say hi, no matter what.

“He was always caring, asking if everyone was ok. I’ll never forget that.”

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