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Fatal crash passenger’s ‘sleeping’ claim

Alina Kauffman, 24, and her brother Ernesto Salazar, 15, were killed when an alleged speeding Mercedes slammed into their Toyota Echo in Sydney's south-west last week. Picture: Supplied
Alina Kauffman, 24, and her brother Ernesto Salazar, 15, were killed when an allegedly speeding Mercedes slammed into their Toyota Echo in Sydney's south-west. Picture: Supplied

A passenger in a Mercedes involved in a double fatal car crash is accused of lying to police about who was behind the wheel when it collided with another car, telling police he couldn’t remember what happened because he was asleep.

Cruz Pamoana Davis-Tuka, 21, was allegedly in the passenger seat of the black Mercedes when it collided head-on with a Toyota Echo shortly after 9pm in Heckenberg on September 1.

Paramedics treated the driver of the Echo, Alina Kauffman, 24, and her teen brother Ernesto at the scene but the siblings passed away as a result of the crash.

Police allege Mr Davis-Tuka’s friend, 20-year-old Johnson Kokozian was in the driver’s seat. He has since been charged with a string of offences in relation to the crash.

Liverpool Local Court on Friday heard a police witness has claimed Mr Kokozian was the driver, while Mr Davis-Tuka gives a conflicting version of the story and claims his friend was the passenger.

He has been charged with concealing a serious indictable offence and hindering a serious investigation.

Alina Kauffman, 24, and her brother Ernesto Salazar, 15, were killed when an alleged speeding Mercedes slammed into their Toyota Echo in Sydney's south-west last week. Picture: Supplied
Alina Kauffman, 24, and her brother Ernesto Salazar, 15, were killed when an alleged speeding Mercedes slammed into their Toyota Echo in Sydney's south-west last week. Picture: Supplied
Following further inquiries, investigators arrested a 21-year-old man at a home in Liverpool about 9.30am on Wednesday.
Cruz Pamoana Davis-Tuka was arrested at a home in Liverpool on Wednesday and charged with concealing and hindering a police investigation. Picture: NSW Police
Liverpool Court -  Heckenberg Crash
The girlfriend of Johnson Kokozian, Tiana Savignano, was also charged with the same offences. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

Magistrate Imad Abdul-Karim read some of the alleged facts to the court, where it was revealed Mr Davis-Tuka told police he couldn’t remember the collision “as he was asleep”.

“He identified the driver falsely as being a passenger of the vehicle … he didn’t provide any further information to police,” the magistrate said.

Mr Davis-Tuka’s solicitor, Elie Srour, told the court the evidence comes from “one of the passengers who is assisting police”.

Appearing via AVL from Parklea Prison dressed in a green jumper and pants, Mr Davis-Tuka sat stone-faced as his father, sister and two friends supported him from the public gallery.

Mr Srour said there was “no evidence of (Mr Davis-Tuka) concocting a version of events” and if his client were to interfere with witnesses he already would have done so, but he hasn’t.

He argued the prosecution case was circumstantial, based off the police witness which could be challenged if or when the matter goes to trial.

“It’s not a strong prosecution case in my respectful submission,” Mr Srour told the court.

Johnson Kokozian is facing seven charges over the crash. Pic Facebook
Johnson Kokozian is facing seven charges over the crash. Pic Facebook
Alina Kauffman, 24, and her brother Ernesto Salazar, 15, were killed when an alleged speeding Mercedes slammed into their Toyota Echo in Sydney's south-west last week. Picture: Supplied
Alina Kauffman was killed in the crash. Picture: GoFundMe
Alina Kauffman, 24, and her brother Ernesto Salazar, 15, were killed when an alleged speeding Mercedes slammed into their Toyota Echo in Sydney's south-west last week. Picture: Supplied
Her teen brother Ernesto was also killed.

A police prosecutor told the court there were concerns Mr Davis-Tuka would further interfere with witnesses and evidence.

He said information had come to light which allegedly shows Mr Davis-Tuka “certainly was aware of who the driver was a the time of the collision and did not assist the prosecution in determining that matter when required”.

“He was there at the time of the collision, he left the scene of the collision with the driver and another occupant and was certainly aware of all the circumstances of that accident,” the prosecutor said.

Magistrate Abdul-Karim told the court he disagreed with Mr Srour’s submission the case was weak and there was “a case of substance” against Mr Davis-Tuka based on both “information from the other passenger” as well as CCTV footage.

Despite the concerns, the magistrate released Mr Davis-Tuka on strict conditional bail including a condition of house arrest, where he is only to leave home to report to police daily.

Mr Kokozian’s partner Tiana Savignano and his father Kagadour Kokozian were also arrested and charged on Wednesday over their alleged involvement in covering up the incident.

Mr Kokozian’s father, Kagadour Kokozian, is facing the same charges as Ms Savignano and Mr Davis-Tuka. Picture: 7News
Mr Kokozian’s father, Kagadour Kokozian, is facing the same charges as Ms Savignano and Mr Davis-Tuka. Picture: 7News
A 61-year-old man was arrested in Cartwright at 12.30pm today and was taken to Liverpool Police Station, where he is continuing to assist police with inquiries.
Mr Kokozian has been released on strict police bail and will face court in October.

Both were charged with concealing a serious indictable offence and hindering a serious investigation.

Mr Kokozian has been charged with seven charges including failing to assist after a fatal crash, negligent driving occasioning death, driving while disqualified, two counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death and exceed speed over 45km/h.

On Wednesday the court was told Mr Kokozian, the passengers and Ms Savignano went to his father’s house where an alleged “discussion occurred in relation to creating a false narrative”.

The court heard the group allegedly tried to prevent police from “appropriately investigating this matter” or capturing “critical” evidence.

The prosecutor said there was an alleged “active discussion” to create a “false narrative” to hide Mr Kokozian’s identity.

Liverpool Court -  Heckenberg Crash
Ms Savignano was released on bail on Wednesday with strict conditions. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

Ms Savignano is alleged to have called police about 10.30pm and had a 15-minute conversation where she reported the car stolen.

“The fact that she allegedly misguides police in the early critical stages of this investigation the prosecution would submit it is not only an egregious breach of community expectation but also the law,” the police prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The court was also told Mr Kokozian’s father had driven to the scene of the crash after he was told about the injuries to the siblings.

Mr Kokozian has been denied bail and will return to court in November, while his father was released on police bail and is due to face court in October.

Mr Davis-Tuka and Ms Savignano will return to court on September 26.