Damien Bullen avoids a jail term for causing crash that killed Tori Earl and Kendall Burke at Whittingham in 2015

MISSED: Kendall Burke, 19, and Tori Earl, 18, died in a crash at Whittingham on May 14, 2015. The driver, Damien Bullen, was spared a jail term on Thursday.

MISSED: Kendall Burke, 19, and Tori Earl, 18, died in a crash at Whittingham on May 14, 2015. The driver, Damien Bullen, was spared a jail term on Thursday.

THE grieving families of two teenage girls killed in a crash on a horror stretch of the New England Highway in 2015 came to court on Thursday in search of justice.

Justice for Tori Earl, 18, and Kendall Burke, 19.

The words were emblazoned on their shirts and in the forefront of their minds.

But the two families say they left “disappointed” after the driver responsible for causing the horrific crash that killed the teenagers avoided a jail term. 

Damien Bullen, 42, of Cameron Park, was fined $1500, suspended from driving for 18 months and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service in Maitland Local Court. 

GUILTY: Damien Bullen outside Singleton courthouse ahead of an earlier appearance. On Thursday he was sentenced to perform 300 hours of community service.

GUILTY: Damien Bullen outside Singleton courthouse ahead of an earlier appearance. On Thursday he was sentenced to perform 300 hours of community service.

Bullen, who was flanked by two Corrective Services officers and two court sheriffs as part of beefed up security at the court due to ongoing tensions between the two parties, had been found guilty of negligent driving occasioning death in March after a hearing. 

“It’s just so disappointing,” Ebony Earl, Tori’s sister-in-law, told the Newcastle Herald after Magistrate Ron Maiden delivered his sentence.

“I know it’s never going to bring the girls back, but he is still not really held accountable.

“It just seems like they were worthless. “But they weren’t worthless to us, they were everything to us.”

Bullen’s barrister, Andrew Bright, had submitted it was a “momentary error of judgement” and not a sustained period of driving that led to the crash. 

“No penalty can ever substitute in any way for the loss of lives that occurred in this tragic accident,” Mr Bright said. 

Bullen rear-ended Ms Earl’s Suzuki in the eastbound lanes of the New England Highway at Whittingham about 4.15pm on May 14, 2015, forcing her car into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer. 

The crash occurred in a 100km/h zone and on a section of road just over a crest where the lanes suddenly merged from two to one. 

Ms Earl and Ms Burke, who were living together at Singleton at the time, both died at the scene. 

Ms Earl had passed her provisional driver’s licence test on the day of the crash. 

Fatal crashes, and the subsequent legal proceedings, carry with them a lot of emotion, and Mr Maiden acknowledged that it was “difficult sentencing exercise”.

He found that Bullen’s criminality fell somewhere around the mid-range, but said it was a difficult assessment to make. 

“You don’t focus on the negligence and nothing else,” he said.

“It’s very clear that this is an offence which has a result. “The result is what is so serious.”

In coming to his decision, Mr Maiden said Bullen had a limited traffic record and had been “distressed as a result of what happened”. 

HORROR: The stretch of the New England Highway where Tori Earl and Kendall Burke were killed in a crash on May 14, 2015. Picture: Simone De Peak

HORROR: The stretch of the New England Highway where Tori Earl and Kendall Burke were killed in a crash on May 14, 2015. Picture: Simone De Peak

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