Lismore Court House. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Lismore Court House. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

Driver involved in fatal Nimbin crash pleads guilty

A NORTHERN Rivers man has pleaded guilty over his responsibility for a crash on Nimbin Rd last November which killed a much loved local woman.

Jason Warne, of Empire Vale, entered a guilty plea to the charge of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death in Lismore Local Court last Monday.

Police allege the 43-year-old was "very substantially impaired" with alcohol and cannabis when his white 2008 Toyota Landcruiser crossed to the wrong side of the road and collided with Simone Rutley's oncoming car, in a 50km/h zone.

Ms Rutley, a cancer ward social worker at Lismore Base Hospital, was travelling home from a shift at the time of the crash.

She was trapped in the van for two hours until she could be removed and airlifted to the Gold Coast University Hospital with critical injuries.

The popular Lismore Base Hospital employee later died as the result of her injuries. She was 49.

Warne was formally charged in April after an investigation by officers from the Far North Coast crash investigation unit.

Mandatory blood and urine testing undertaken at Lismore Base Hospital after the crash revealed he was under the influence of alcohol and cannabis.

The 43-year-old was initially charged with aggravated dangerous driving under the influence of drugs, dangerous driving occasioning death - under the influence, dangerous driving occasioning death - drive manner dangerous, negligent driving occasioning death, driving under the influence of drugs, and not keeping left of the dividing line.

Following the guilty plea to the most serious charge, the prosecution withdrew two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and the charge of negligent driving occasioning death against Mr Warne.

The charges of driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs and not keeping left of the dividing line will be considered by a judge at Warne's sentencing in the District Court.

Magistrate Karen Stafford adjourned Mr Warne's matters until November 6 at Lismore Local Court for mention to fix a sentence date.

Warne's bail conditions remain in place. He must not drive at any time, reside at his Empire Vale home, and provide police of his interstate work roster and inform them when he leaves and returns to NSW.

Magistrate Stafford ordered Mr Warne to appear in court in person on the next occasion.