Clayton Curnow pleads guilty to causing his best mate Jake Collins's death at Mungo Brush

SOULMATES: Champion archer Jake Collins and his girlfriend, Natalie Henderson. In the wake of his death, Ms Henderson said Mr Collins was her best friend whose energy was infectious. Picture: Facebook
SOULMATES: Champion archer Jake Collins and his girlfriend, Natalie Henderson. In the wake of his death, Ms Henderson said Mr Collins was her best friend whose energy was infectious. Picture: Facebook

IT was champion archer Jake Collins’s “jovial character” that prompted him to climb onto the roof of his utility as his best mate, Clayton John Curnow, drove along Mungo Brush Road on October 16 last year.

Only minutes earlier, Mr Collins and Mr Curnow’s obliging and friendly nature had been on display after they stopped on the remote stretch of road to help two other campers gather some firewood.

But what happened next was a tragedy for all involved. 

Curnow, 31, of Mount Thorley, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday where he admitted to causing the death of Mr Collins, after Mr Collins fell from the roof of his ute during a prawning trip to Mungo Brush. 

Curnow pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving occasioning death – drive manner dangerous after a charge of dangerous driving occasioning death – drive under the influence was withdrawn.  

Charges of negligent driving occasioning death and mid-range drink driving will be taken into account when Mr Curnow is sentenced. 

According to a statement of police facts, which DPP solicitor Brooke Ellery said were not yet agreed upon, Mr Curnow called Mr Collins about 6pm on October 16 last year and asked if he wanted to go prawning at Mungo Brush, a popular camping area east of Bulahdelah. 

Mr Collins agreed and the pair arranged for Mr Curnow to pick Mr Collins up from Newcastle using Mr Collins’s Holden Rodeo utility. 

A few hours later the pair were driving along Mungo Brush Road at Hawks Nest when they spotted a Mazda pulled over to the side of the road, its hazard lights flashing.

Mr Curnow stopped the car and spoke to the two occupants, who said they were gathering firewood on the way to their campsite.

After a discussion, the pair with the Mazda agreed to accompany Mr Curnow and Mr Collins prawning, with Mr Collins and Mr Curnow pulling a large branch on top of their vehicle to use as firewood.

But at some point during the drive to the campsite, Mr Collins began climbing out of the passenger side window towards the roof of the vehicle, police facts state.

Mr Curnow told police he said to Mr Collins: “Don’t be a d---. Don’t kill yourself on my watch”.

Mr Collins has then pulled himself up onto the windowsill of the door and then used his knee to climb up on the roof, according to Mr Curnow’s account to police.

At some point during the drive Mr Collins has fallen from the roof.

He died at the scene. 

Mr Curnow later recorded a blood-alcohol reading of 0.089, court documents state.