THE last time Timothy Nigel Cowling saw Sarah Dwyer she was in the passenger seat of his green Commodore sedan.
For the young couple it was an ordinary Saturday. The weather was warm with a threat of rain. Neither knew the tragedy awaiting them.
On Wednesday, Cowling, now 29, of Maclean, admitted to a Grafton District Court judge that dangerous driving caused his girlfriend's death.
The full story of the accident that killed Sarah Dwyer, from Yamba, has now been released.
August 18, 2007, 5.45pm. Cowling was driving north on the Pacific Highway and had just driven over the Harwood Bridge. Sarah Dwyer was in the passenger seat.
Cowling reached the turn-off to Watts Lane and began to turn right. What he failed to see was a semi-trailer travelling south in the other lane of the highway.
The truck was only a short distance from the intersection when Cowling began to turn.
The truck driver slammed on the brakes. The wheels of the trailer locked and the vehicle skidded on bitumen. He realised he had no chance of stopping in time.
His truck ploughed into the passenger door of the Commodore and the car was pushed over a concrete traffic island before stopping on a grass verge.
Another truck driver, who saw the accident, phoned for help and went to the car.
Cowling was trapped in the driver's seat. The truck driver asked if anyone else was in the car. Cowling said “no”, before asking how his girlfriend was.
The truck driver looked into the car and saw a woman behind the driver's seat. Sarah Dwyer died on impact. She was 22 years old.
Emergency services arrived and cut Cowling from the car. He was airlifted to Lismore Base Hospital and released the next day with moderate injuries to his left-side lung and ribs.
Blood tests revealed he had methamphetamine and cannabis in his system at the time of the crash.
Cowling was scheduled this week to go to trial in the District Court after pleading not guilty to dangerous driving causing death.
Before the matter could go to trial, however, the Maclean man changed his plea to guilty.
He was sentenced on Wednesday to 21 months of periodic detention with a non-parole period of 14 months.