A road tragedy that killed a newly engaged volunteer firefighter on her way to pick up her mother when her car was hit by a 56-year-old nurse driving to see her daughter was detailed in a Perth court today.
Mary Ellen Ash's case in the District Court was this morning described by the judge as one of the most difficult types of sentencings.
The court was told Ash could not explain why - after an "exemplary" life with no offences of any kind and numerous volunteer roles in the community - she failed to see two warning signs and a stop sign before ploughing through a Wongamine intersection into 31-year-old Emma Jolly's car about 3pm on May 25 last year.
The volunteer firefighter, who had become engaged months earlier and recently returned from a stint helping Aboriginal communities, had been on her way to pick up her mother from the airport so they could start planning her wedding when she was killed.
Her fiancee, Stephen Feast, was today surrounded by dignified yet grieving family - including Ms Jolly's mother Raye - as he described her as a beautiful person who had made his life a fairytale before the tragedy.
But while he believed Ash had done the wrong thing he said he could see no point in pushing for her to be jailed.
"Mrs Ash did the wrong thing and nothing was ever going to bring Em back so all we really wanted was for her to show some remorse and be held responsible for her actions and that has happened ... we couldn't have expected any more than what happened today," he said.
Ash, whose defence lawyer became emotional as he described his client's daily remorse over the fatality, was today given 16-months jail term but had it suspended for 18 months.
Her crime of dangerous driving occasioning death had not involved alcohol, excessive speed, fatigue, distraction by a mobile phone or any other aggravating factors.
The court was told that Ash, who suffered multiple fractures in the crash that ended her nursing career, had hardly any recollection of the event but had told those who freed her from her vehicle that she believed she must have missed the stop sign.
Each of the cars had been forced more than 20m from the site of impact, with the court told Ash had been travelling about 90-100km/h in line with the speed limit when she ran into Ms Jolly's car.The same intersection, which had two warning signs but vegetation on the sides and shade over one stop sign, had prompted a "chillingly" similar incident months earlier, the court was told.
It had also prompted complaints from locals about "near misses" for years.
Ash's lawyer Terry Dobson became emotional as he described how the 56-year-old had never once complained about her own situation and felt daily sorrow for the pain she had caused Ms Jolly's family.
The court was told her empathy had been heightened by the sudden death of her own husband in 1986. She had since remarried but her second partner now had terminal cancer with 12 months to live.
She had also worked in many community roles, including helping struggling farmers on the back of drought.
"This is the most difficult kind of sentencing," Judge Patrick O'Neal said. "Your life in the community has not merely been blameless but in most aspects exemplary."
Ms Jolly's family said they were pleased the intersection had been improved since the tragedy in the hope it would save other people's lives.Ash said the case was "very sad" as she left court with her family.