‘It’s broken me’: Drunk driver jailed, family left shattered
The imprisonment of Dwayne Leon Joel Mitchell for killing his mate Dylan Donohue in a drink driving crash is a cautionary tale for those considering getting behind the wheel after several drinks.
After downing two bottles of rum, Mitchell, 24, made the fateful decision to climb behind the wheel with passengers Dylan Donohue, 25, and Ian Pope, 26 on July 29, 2018.
He was witnessed overtaking vehicles at speeds of between 140km/h and 160km/h in the lead up to barrel rolling his Toyota Landcruiser south of Alligator Creek at 8.15pm.
Ian Pope was found alive and Dylan Donohue died after sustaining a 32cm laceration to his head, while Mitchell's blood alcohol concentration was determined to be between .156 and .206 at the time of the crash.
Claiming to have no recollection of the night and uncertain if he was the driver, Mitchell began a protracted legal process, where he was ultimately found guilty and sentenced in the Townsville District Court on Thursday.
Crown Prosecutor Aaron Dunkerton said travelling on the wrong side of the road, overtaking double white lines and driving at significant speeds while seriously intoxicated (over three times the legal limit) resulted in a critical failure to deal with the conditions of the road, tragically resulting in the death of Dylan Donohue.
He said Mitchell was twice convicted for drug driving, with the last incident just six weeks before the fatal crash.
Mr Dunkerton read out heartbreaking victim impact statements from Mr Donohue's mother Sonya and grandparents Terry and Maureen Donohue.
His mum said Dylan was her only child and she was "flat out getting out of bed most days", needing counselling and taking tablets for PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
"I can't do everyday simple tasks anymore. I sit inside pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm absolutely drained, it has broken me," she said.
His grandmother said they helped rear him from a baby and he had lived with them for most of his life. "I don't think I will ever get over it. Never. I still cry for him. I still look for him everywhere I go. We have a lifetime of heartache that we will never, ever get over," she said.
While Mr Dunkerton said the jail sentence should be seven-and-a-half years, Defence barrister Kelly Stone believed a sentence of five to six years was appropriate.
Mr Stone said Mitchell was "couch surfing", struggling to find employment in Townsville, with the death of his nephew and a close friend triggering him to get "blackout drunk every second or third day" in the lead up to the crash.
Mitchell began rehabilitating after the crash, getting help for his alcoholism and regaining employment, with 12 letters of support saying that he was respectful, responsible, reliable with strong ties to his cultural heritage.
"He has accepted the jury's decision and has to accept he was the driver and from now on he has to bear the guilt of that," Mr Stone said.
Judge John Coker reflected on the tragedy for all those involved, saying we all risked taking a life when we got behind the wheel.
While no punishment could bring Dylan back, he could discourage others from making the same poor choice, especially those young men who "like to drive quickly to think they're 10 foot tall and bulletproof to realise that they are not, and that the consequences of their actions can be absolutely tragic".
Accounting for time served in pre-sentence custody, he sentenced Mitchell to six-and-a-half years imprisonment with a fixed parole eligibility date in three years, on February 10, 2024 with his licence disqualified for the default time period.
Originally published as 'It's broken me': Drunk driver jailed as family left shattered