Australian kills elderly Peninsula couple while driving wrong way: DA

An Australian tourist has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter after allegedly killing a couple in their 80s last week in San Mateo County.

Luke Nardini, 31, of Narrogin, Australia, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to the deadly Sept. 1 crash, where prosecutors say he was driving on the wrong side of the road on Highway 84 in La Honda about 5 p.m.

Nardini had been driving a BMW M4 when he moved into the oncoming side of the roadway because he'd encountered a road closure in the eastbound lanes, according to prosecutors. 

Once he passed Peek-A-Boo Lane, he "(forgot) to move back to the right side of the road, as they drive on the left in Australia," prosecutors said.

Court documents state Nardini continued driving east in the westbound lane for about two miles, reaching a speed of 55-60 mph. 

He crashed his BMW into a Ford Taurus.

The Taurus driver tried to swerve, but couldn't. 

Two people in the car were injured and the two passengers in the back died. They were identified as Jack and Linda Davis, both 80 years old. The couple had been married for six decades. 

Luke Nardini. Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff

Their family is devastated. 

"They did everything together," Linda Davis' sister, Donna Lembke, said in an interview Friday from her home in Roseville, Calif. "They were a very happy couple."

Jack was a guitar player, a longtime Local 483 member, and spent decades as an apprenticeship instructor for other fire sprinkler installers. 

Linda Davis volunteered at a Redwood City botanical garden after working in insurance. 

Both loved to camp and loved animals. 

Neither Lembke wanted to discuss the facts of the case. 

As of Friday, Nardini was being held in Maguire Correctional Facility on $20,000 bail. Nardini suffered a fractured lower vertebra and was also taken to hospital.

Assistant District Attorney Sean Gallagher said that the reason his office is charging Nardini with manslaughter because prosecutors believe he acted with criminal negligence, an act done outside of what a reasonable person would do in preventing a reasonably foreseeable harm.  

Prosecutors could have charged him with something greater, Gallagher said. But that charge, gross negligence, would have required evidence that he acted in a reckless way that created a high risk of death or great bodily injury. 

His lawyer, John Noonan of Dublin, declined comment.

Australian media identified Nardini as a race car driver.

But his family issued a statement through Noonan saying Nardini is not a professional race car driver. Intstead, they said, he works in the "motor vehicle field" as a mechanic and electrician.

Several media reports said his mother, Cheryle Nardini, wrote in a now-private Facebook post that her said her son was deeply saddened by the "terrible" event.

"He has expressed again how sorry he is about what has happened," she wrote. "He wanted to relay to us that he is OK and is being treated well."

The Sydney Morning Herald said he was just one day from returning to Australia after a three-week trip to the United States. 

Drugs and alcohol are not suspected. 

A bail motion hearing is set for Sept. 19. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to reflect the statement from Nardini's lawyer that he is not a race car driver. 

Jack and Linda Davis, both 80, were married for six decades. Photo: family