Steven and Michelle Underhill leave Coffs Harbour Court House after Courteney Pearl Matthews was sentenced over the crash that killed their daughter Elle.
Steven and Michelle Underhill leave Coffs Harbour Court House after Courteney Pearl Matthews was sentenced over the crash that killed their daughter Elle. Liana Turner

Horror crash that killed girl in parents' 'every thought'

UPDATE, 7.45pm: "HER absence is like the sky, it's spread through everything."

These words, referencing CS Lewis, were read by the mother of a Casino girl who died in a crash on the Bruxner Hwy when the driver responsible was sentenced.

Michelle Underhill read the quote at the end of her victim impact statement after describing the "intense pain" of losing her four-year-old daughter, Elle.

Her babysitter, Courteney Pearl Matthews, now 21, was behind the wheel at the time of the December 18, 2015 crash and was this week sentenced for negligent driving occasioning death and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm before Coffs Harbour Local Court on Thursday.

Elle's father, Steven Underhill, recalled the "carnage" of the crash scene, which he rushed to with his wife.

"It is in my every thought, every minute of every day," Mr Underhill said.

"I will not see her first day of school or university (or) any other event in her life because it was taken from us."

The Crown prosecutor said the incident was clearly "almost completely unnecessary" to say the incident was "a tragedy of almost inestimable proportion".

"In a moment, an action of negligence ... has caused the loss of one life and numerous lives have been altered seemingly irreparably," he said.

"(The Underhills) feel (Matthews') attempts to apologise have been too late and too little."

The prosecutor said the crash involved "momentary inattention" as Matthews approached a right hand bend on the Bruxner Hwy which "led to calamity".

The court heard the council had recently undertaken work on this stretch of the road, that a line marking had not been replaced there was loose material likely to contribute to a loss of traction.

Matthews swerved onto the shoulder, over-corrected and lost control, hurling into the path of an oncoming car before her Mazda sedan was torn in half.

Matthews' barrister Simon Buchen said the incident was a "tragic road accident" but that his client accepted responsibility. A sentencing assessment report found she had not tried to justify, minimise or divert blame for the crash.

The court heard Matthews had been on her provisional licence for one month at the time of the crash, was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol and there was no evidence of distraction by a device or other means.

Mr Buchen read to the court a message his client had sent to the Underhills more than a year after the incident.

He also tendered a letter from Matthews to the court.

Matthews walked free from court after Magistrate Maiden sentenced her to a three year community corrections order, 300 hours community service and $1500 in fines.

Mr Maiden ended her period of disqualification from driving - which spanned almost three years - on the day of sentencing.

Speaking outside court, Mr Underhill said they would accept Matthews' sentence although any penalty was difficult to measure against the tremendous loss their family had experienced.

Ms Underhill said the family was "forever grateful" to emergency services and others who had also "suffered immensely".

 

UPDATE, 5pm: COURTENEY Pearl Matthews has walked from court after being sentenced over the crash that killed a four-year-old girl.

Matthews, 21, has been sentenced to a three year Community Corrections Order and 300 hours community service for dangerous driving occasioning death and grievous bodily harm over the December 18, 2015 crash that killed Elle Underhill.

After handing down his judgment, Magistrate Maiden described the matter as a "very difficult" case.

More to come.

 

Original story: CASINO woman Courteney Pearl Matthews has arrived at court for sentencing over a fatal crash.

Matthews, 21, is due to be sentenced today before Coffs Harbour Local Court over the December, 2015 crash.

A four-year-old girl Matthews was babysitting died in the incident which took place on the Bruxner Highway between Lismore and Casino.

The girl's sister was injured in the incident.

Matthews was previously expected to face trial in March over more serious charges including dangerous driving occasioning death.

But prosecutors accepted her guilty pleas to two lesser charges, including negligent driving occasioning death and negligent driving occasioning actual bodily harm and the trial, which was scheduled to take place in March, was vacated.

Matthews has arrived at court flanked by supporters, as have family members of the victims.

Matthews' sentencing hearing is expected to begin after 9.30am.



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