Amanda Lee Clarke pleads guilty to causing crash that killed Joel Thompson at Congewai

Newcastle courthouse.
Newcastle courthouse.

A WOMAN who fell asleep behind the wheel and careered into a large tree off Congewai Road, killing her male front seat passenger, had smoked ice a couple of hours before the crash and was “very substantially impaired” by the drug, according to court documents.

Amanda Lee Clarke, now 29, was represented by criminal solicitor James Janke when she appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death – driving under the influence of drugs.  

Clarke was driving along Congewai Road about 1am on March 14 this year when her Toyota Corolla sedan left the road and collided with a large tree before spinning out of control and rolling, according to an agreed statement of facts. 

The victim, 30-year-old Joel Richard Thompson, was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. He died at the scene. 

Two people who lived nearby heard the crash and rushed to help.

They discovered Clarke walking around distressed repeating: “I was so tired, I was so tired”. 

Clarke suffered minor injuries and was taken to John Hunter Hospital where blood and urine samples were taken.

“I wasn’t doing any more than 80km/h,” Clarke told detectives at the hospital. I approached a right-hand bend, then I must have fallen asleep. I woke up and saw a tree. I couldn’t move fast enough. I swerved to the right but I hit the tree.”

Clarke admitted to smoking ice a couple of hours before the crash and later told police she used the drug most days.

She said she had smoked ice in the driveway of her parents home a couple of hours before the crash and had been falling asleep while her and Mr Thompson were sitting in the car. 

They went for a drive and she fell asleep again, Clarke said. Subsequent analysis of Clarke’s blood returned a positive reading for drugs, including 0.40mg/L of methylamphetamine and 0.06mg/L of amphetamine.

Clinical pharmacologist Dr Judith Pearl opined that, at the time of her driving, Clarke was “under the influence of methylamphetamine  to the extent that there would have been very substantial impairment of her driving ability”. 

Clarke will appear in Newcastle District Court on September 6 to get a sentence date later in the year. 

She faces the maximum of 14 years in jail on the most serious charge.