No jail yet for joyride death

JESSICA Collen spent the last moments of her life laughing and chatting with a friend before the 4WD she was joyriding in rolled earlier this year killing her.

The 18-year-old Banora Point girl was sitting unrestrained in the back of a 4WD ute that was hit by a wave at South Kingscliff Beach and rolled, throwing her from the vehicle.

She died on the beach in the early hours of March 17 from injuries sustained in the accident.

The 18-year-old driver of the 4WD yesterday faced Tweed Heads Local Court where he pleaded guilty to negligent driving causing Jessica's death.

Bilambil student Justin Bede Spillane was found guilty of serious negligence for allowing Jessica and another girl to ride unrestrained in the ute's tray as they drove along the beach shortly after midnight.

In facts tended to court police said Spillane was driving along the beach with Jessica and Anita Michelle Casey in the tray and Callum Brian Wade unrestrained in the front.

The four friends had returned to the beach to show Callum where they had been bogged during an earlier joy- ride in the evening. They were heading back to the beach carpark when the accident happened.

Police facts said Spillane had swerved to miss a wave when the vehicle's tyres dug in the sand causing it to roll.

Everyone but Spillane was thrown from the vehicle. Jessica ended up in the water and was dragged to the beach by her friends who tried to revive her.

A statement by Mr Wade said Spillane had been travelling at 70km/hr before the accident, which Spillane's lawyer disputed. He put the speed at 45km/hr.

Mr Wade also said the sand Spillane drove in was boggy and the steering wheel was jerking before the accident. He said the girls were being jolted 30 centimetres in the air.

However, a statement by Ms Casey said she felt safe riding in the tray with Jessica until water sprayed up on the car before the accident.

"Before the accident .?.?. Jessica and I were looking at each other and laughing," her statement said.

Spillane's lawyer Martin Piper said his client had not been drinking prior to the accident and that he had negotiated the trip down the beach safely earlier in the night.

Mr Piper said Spillane still kept in touch with Jessica's family and was undergoing major counselling over the incident.

Magistrate Jeff Linden said there were slightly different versions of events, but there had been a high degree of negligence by Spillane.

"He placed himself without permission on the sand with people unrestrained," he said.

He gave Spillane a 15month suspended jail sentence on the condition of good behaviour and disqualified him from driving for two years.

A second charge of dangerous driving occasioning death has been adjourned for March 7, 2005.

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