On May 12, 2012, Samantha and her then fiancé Luke Hunt were en route to a gym on Sydney’s Northern Beaches when Luke, who was travelling more than 30kms beyond the speed limit, ran an amber light and collided with a car being driven by local resident Kenneth Lay, 78.
Paramedics rushed the elderly man to hospital but couldn’t save him, and in May 2014, Hunt was sentenced to jail, with a minimum two years before parole.
Following his release earlier this year, Samantha has revealed that the couple married in secret before Luke’s jail sentence began, and is now speaking out about the accident in a bid to warn others about the dangers of speeding.
Talking exclusively to marie claire, an emotional Samantha Harris has recalled the fateful day that would change the course of so many lives. “Everything that could go wrong did that day,” she says, explaining that their busy schedules meant they were working out on the weekend as opposed to their normal weekday routine, and that bad traffic meant they took a different route to the gym. “I was texting on my phone and had my head down, so I don’t remember the actual accident - I think my body went into shock and I fainted.”
When she came to minutes later, “I was freaking out, I didn’t know what was happening,” Samantha recalls. “Luke was in a lot of pain (with suspected spinal fractures) and thought he was dying.”
The couple were later devastated to hear of Kenneth Lay’s passing, when Luke was recovering in hospital. “The police came in and said Mr Lay had passed away,” says Samantha. “Luke was in shock and started sobbing, he couldn’t believe it.”
The personal fallout was tough for the pair – Luke was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death and Samantha was subjected to online bullying as soon as the news became public.
The one silver lining was the couple’s secret wedding day, held in March 2014, two months before Luke’s jail sentence began.
Why the secrecy? Out of respect, the couple wanted to keep the event lowkey, Samantha tells marie claire.
It was a poignant day, given the pain of the past and the knowledge they’d soon be separated for years, but its joy banished some of the dread of what lay ahead.