An appeals court has doubled the compensation awarded to the parents of a young pharmacist killed when she was hit by a car driven at 140km/h on Gzira seafront in 2017.

Stephanie Rapa, 30, had been crossing the busy thoroughfare when she was hit by a white GTR Nissan driven by 46-year-old Anthony Chircop, on October 19, 2017 at around 7.45pm.

Last June, the first court awarded the parents €162,000 in damages in a civil action against the driver and his car insurance company. The court had found that both the driver and the pedestrian were responsible for the accident. 

But the Court of Appeal, presided by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti and judges Giannino Caruana Demajo and Anthony Ellul found that it was only the motorist who was responsible.

There was no doubt that dangerous driving, at a speed of 140 kilometres per hour, was the reason why Rapa had lost her life, the appeals court said.

The dynamics of the incident were recorded from different angles by CCTV footage and were later also confirmed by eyewitnesses who recalled how they saw “a lady thrown in the air” between two palm trees on the central strip and then “hitting her head on the ground”.

Court heard traffic expert Mario Buttigieg explained how the car involved in the accident was one of the nine fastest in the world and could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 2.8 seconds. The car was being driven at excessive speed and had left tyre marks on the road measuring over 44 metres. "A car like that is not meant to be driven on Maltese roads," the court observed.

The judges noted that shortly before the accident occurred, the defendant made use of a special feature that the vehicle had to increase speed, giving the victim “no chance”.

The car was being driven like an arrow - court

“This court has no doubt that dangerous driving was the reason why the accident took place. At a speed of 140 kilometres per hour, the defendant put himself in a position where he could not avoid the accident… the car was being driven like an arrow, so much so that the defendant didn't even see the woman crossing despite the width of the straight, well-lit road,” the court observed. 

It also noted that the impact was so violent that the car’s airbags were activated, the windscreen was shattered, and the vehicle suffered damage amounting to more than €8,000.

The judges noted that while the victim could have been more careful while crossing the road, or used the traffic lights just some distance away, she probably ran across the street because she saw the defendant’s car coming. What she did not know was that Chircop was using a special feature that increased the torque and hence the speed in a matter of seconds.

“The court is more than satisfied that this incident is solely the fault of the defendant who chose to show off and drive as if he was on a highway and put himself in a position where he could not take evasive action,” the court said.

The judges ruled that the first court had not given enough importance to the fact that the car was travelling at a speed of 140 kilometres per hour in a residential area. They said the footage was the best proof of how violent the impact was and the “frantic speed” at which the vehicle was being driven.

The appeals court, therefore, revoked the compensation granted by the first court and doubled it to €324,000.

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