Then teenager didn't think twice about grabbing the car keys. That fateful decision ended with a life lost.
Then teenager didn't think twice about grabbing the car keys. That fateful decision ended with a life lost. Brett Wortman

'We didn't get to say goodbye to our beautiful son'

A FATEFUL decision to go for a drive out of boredom ended with one life lost, two others suffering serious injuries, and now the driver behind the wheel of the fatal crash has been jailed.

On the night of August 22 last year, Mitchell Cosgrove, 19, didn't think twice about grabbing the car keys to his mother's Holden Astra and drive, despite spending most of the afternoon and evening drinking with friend Thomas Austin, a court was told.

At about 4pm on the day before the crash, Cosgrove, who was on a provisional licence, had visited Austin's house, with the pair sharing a bottle of whisky, before Cosgrove and Austin drove to pick up two more friends about 8pm and returned to Austin's address to continue drinking.

The group left Grafton to go for a drive to Junction Hill at around 11pm. Cosgrove told NSW Police investigators he was going around 120-130km/h in a 100km/h zone prior to the crash. Police investigators estimated the car was travelling at around 90km/h when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a drain.

About 12.45am on August 22 last year, police were called to Black Lane near Junction Hill, following reports of a crash and Coffs/Clarence Police District officers found the car had left the road and struck a drain, the court heard.

NSW Ambulance paramedics attempted to treat 24-year-old Austin, who had been travelling as a rear-seat passenger, however he died at the scene. The two female passengers, both aged 17, were treated at the scene with one taken to Coffs Harbour Health Campus and the other to Grafton Base Hospital.

Earlier this year Cosgrove pleaded guilty to charges of dangerous driving occasioning death while under the influence and causing bodily harm by misconduct while in charge of a motor vehicle.

Cosgrove bowed his head and cried from the dock while victim impact statements were read during Cosgrove's sentencing in Grafton District Court on Thursday.

Austin's parents Mark and Kerrie Ann Austin said the sudden and shocking death of their son had consumed them in grief, and the crushing pain made it hard to breathe, move or sleep.

"It is difficult to see the pain and sadness in our close family's eyes. As a parent it is a helpless feeling when you can't make this better, can't take the pain away," Mrs Austin said.

"Our son died still trapped in that car before help could arrive. We didn't get to say goodbye to our beautiful son. Our loss sadly only becomes more permanent with the passing of time. Our family and our lives will never be whole again."

Cosgrove's barrister Sophie Anderson submitted that her client was a person of good character, and his age and no other criminal record showed good prospects for rehabilitation. Ms Anderson also submitted Cosgrove's early plea of guilty showed remorse, and that Cosgrove accepted responsibility for his actions.

In his judgment, Acting Judge C O'Connor noted Cosgrove's considerable regret and remorse and the psychological damage the crash had caused, but said he had a high moral culpability in the cause of the collision by driving at high speed while intoxicated.

"The failure of young offenders to heed the warning of speed and driving while intoxicated has seen a young man lost his life and two more injured," Acting Judge O'Connor said.

"The damage done to the families involved is palpable and long-lasting, as is their grief and anguish."

Cosgrove was sentenced to a jail term of four years and three months, with a non-parole period of two years and three months, and was disqualified from driving for three years. He will be eligible for release in November, 2020.

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