"I just wish there was some way I could ease the pain, even a little bit, but I'm aware the only way that would be possible is if he was still standing here with us."

Those were the words a sobbing Dane Nightingale told the court before being jailed for causing the crash that killed his best friend Bailey Pleydell in 2019.

Nightingale, 20, pleaded guilty in the Bundaberg District Court on Monday to one count of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death and grievous bodily harm and driving with a drug in his system.

A trip from the Sunshine Coast to Seventeen Seventy to celebrate a friend's birthday took a catastrophic turn on July 5 in 2019 when Nightingale's blue Toyota Yaris collided with a car carrying another Sunshine Coast family.

The court heard in the lead up to the crash Nightingale was seen driving dangerously between Maryborough and Childers weaving in and out of his lane, with oncoming traffic having to take evasive action.

He was also speeding and tailgated an SUV which he overtook before having to swerve back to avoid a head-on collision with a truck.

Nightingale was driving the blue Yaris before the crash which killed his friend Bailey Pleydell.
Nightingale was driving the blue Yaris before the crash which killed his friend Bailey Pleydell.


The court heard Nightingale's driving was of such concern that the passenger of a car travelling behind him called Policelink to report him.

Nightingale drove through a roadside breath test site in Childers at speed with his headlights off, causing a police officer to step up onto a kerb to avoid being hit.

The crash happened just one kilometre from the RBT site when Nightingale tried to overtake a ute on a bend across double white lines.

The driver of the ute saw a Jeep approaching from a southerly direction and moved to try and let Nightingale back in, but it was too late.

The two oncoming cars collided, with data from Nightingale's car later revealing he was travelling at up to 96km/h in a 80km/h zone in the lead-up to the crash with no evidence of braking.

While Nightingale emerged from the crash unscathed his passengers were not so lucky with the passenger side of his car copping the brunt of the crash.

Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter airlifted patients to hospital after the crash that killed Bailey Pleydell (inset).
Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter airlifted patients to hospital after the crash that killed Bailey Pleydell (inset).

 

Pleydell, who was sitting in the front passenger's side, died at the scene while trapped in the wreckage of the smashed up car.

Their friend Jonty Miles, who was sitting in the back seat, sustained life threatening injuries which required emergency surgery and further follow up operations.

CT scans confirmed Miles had sustained spinal, rib, sternum and pelvic fractures among other injuries.

The daughter of the man and woman travelling in the Jeep suffered a perforated bowel, while her mother sustained rib, sternum and spine fractures. Her father received a laceration to his hand.

Five hours after the crash, Nightingale had blood drawn while he was at the hospital with results revealing he had THC in his blood.

There was no evidence Nightingale was adversely affected by drugs at the time of the crash.

Crown prosecutor Alexandra Baker told the court Nightingale was dealt with by the court last year after he was found in possession of marijuana.

She said it was "concerning" he had continued to be around drugs after the incident.

Pleydell's family, who were in the courtroom, gave emotionalvictim impact statements.

His mum, Megan Rickards, described Bailey as someone with a "heart of gold" and a "wicked sense of humour".

"Bailey was not just my son, he was a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a family friend, a school friend, a neighbour and a teammate," she said.

"My thoughts and my sleep are relentlessly interrupted with traumatic flashbacks of that crumpled blue Yaris.

"I envisage his chiselled jawline as he laid in his coffin, I can even feel the coldness of his cheeks on my fingertips.

"The lack of his laughter and his enormous smile and his entire physical being, is a constant void I cannot ignore.

"I cannot help but think of how avoidable this tragedy was."

Nightingale's barrister Nick Larter told the court his client had expressed deep remorse and sorrow for his "gravely, gravely, stupid" actions.

Mr Larter said Nightingale knew the pain he had caused the victims and their families and was committed to make something of his life.

In his letter to the victims Nightingale expressed his remorse, saying he would apologise "100 times, 1000 times over".

Nightingale sobbed as he read his statement from the dock.

"To Bailey's family, I know nothing can make it right … I know that the grief I have gone through is a fraction of what you as a whole have gone through … I just wish there was some way I could ease the pain," he said.

"I would say sorry 100 times, 1000 times over, but it won't bring him back and I'm very sorry."

Nightingale also apologised to his friend Jonty Miles and the other victims in his letter.

Judge Vicki Loury took into account Nightingale's plea of guilty and the remorse he showed.

She told Nightingale that the offending carried a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

"You are described by others as respectful, responsible and trustworthy, you were anything but responsible when you chose to drive in the manner you did on July 5 2019," she said.

"I accept you are remorseful. Mr Pleydell was your friend and you will live with the knowledge that you killed your friend by your irresponsible driving for the rest of your life.

"You alone will bare the responsibility of knowing that you took a life and caused immeasurable pain and grief to people you knew and people you know.

"Mr Pleydell was a son, a brother and a grandson, the victim impact statements have expressed in a way that I cannot, just how deeply he was loved and cherished.

"He was a young man with hopes and dreams; You took that all away."

Nightingale was sentenced for five years imprisonment to be suspended after serving 20 months for a period of five years.

He was also ordered to complete three years of probation and was disqualified from holding a licence for three years.

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