Family’s heartbreaking loss laid bare as teen pleads
THE grief of loved ones of a woman killed on her way to work in a crash on Tiger Brennan Drive in February has been laid bare in an emotional plea hearing in the Youth Justice Court.
An 18-year-old woman - who was 17 at the time of the crash and cannot be named - pleaded guilty yesterday to dangerous driving causing the death of 57-year-old Jo Neyens and driving with trace amounts of cannabis in her blood.
In a heartbreaking victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Neyens' partner of 21 years, Andrew Goldsworthy, said the decision the young woman made to take her eyes off the road on February 13 "erased the future of two people in an instant".
"A decision you made took from us future memories, dreams and experiences," he said.
"A decision you made stole from us a friend, a sister, a daughter and a partner. A decision you made crushed my heart and a big part of me also died that day with Jo."
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Mr Goldsworthy said the day had started out "like any other day" before ending with one life gone forever and for another, "a heart ripped out and a soul crushed". "We chatted about the renovations, hugged and kissed goodbye, we said to each other 'Enjoy your day, see you tonight'," he said.
"A decision you made changed all that, it wasn't just like any other day - so many plans, so much travel, so many future memories, so many smiles, so many laughs, so many hugs - all erased in an instant.
"You may in your life have the privilege to share it with someone where it feels like two people sharing the same soul - if you do, always remember that is what you took from us with the decision you made that morning."
But Mr Goldsworthy said while the teenager must make amends for her "stupid mistake" and its "dire consequences", he was uncomfortable with the idea of her going to jail, saying "you have a lifetime to give back to the community and society".
"I want you to give back for what Jo is no longer able to do, I want you to be a positive contributor to society, I want you to find your passion and volunteer, contribute, be present," he said.
"Under no circumstances are you to let this take you down a rabbit hole of self-centred depression and feeling sorry for yourself, you must make the most of the cherished gift of life and I wish for you to use this mistake to become the best person you can possibly be and give back for all the days Jo is no longer able to."
The woman's lawyer, Peter Maley, said prosecutors had accepted the cannabis found in her blood did not contribute to the "momentary lapse" that caused the crash and she now wanted to meet Ms Neyens' family to personally convey how sorry she was.
"I can say with absolute confidence that (she) is genuinely remorseful and if there's anyone in this room who'd want to undo and change those events it would be (her)," he said.
"This is an absolute tragedy and she's got to deal with that and part of this closure begins today for her."
The woman will be sentenced at a later date.
Originally published as Family's heartbreaking loss laid bare as teen pleads over fatal crash