ADAM Anthony Bortic was under the influence of alcohol and had cannabis in his system when he lost control of a car on Soldiers Point Road after midnight on April 13 last year and slammed into a tree, killing his two workmates.
Bortic, 32, of Runcorn in Queensland, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday where he pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death, which carries a maximum of 14 years in jail, in relation to the crash that killed Queensland man Jamie Ward, 34, and 29-year-old Estonian national Lauri Juerman.
Three other charges, including driving with an illicit drug in his blood, namely cannabis, will serve as back-ups and related offences when Bortic is ultimately sentenced in Newcastle District Court.
But, at this stage, Bortic intends to plead not guilty to a charge of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm in relation to the injuries suffered by surviving passenger, Reece Neville Ashe, 32, of Brisbane.
That matter was committed for trial on Wednesday.
Bortic's solicitor, Christian Hearn, said he hoped negotiations between the parties would prove fruitful before Bortic was arraigned in Newcastle District Court in May.
"In relation to the matter committed for trial, we are still intending to try and resolve that," Mr Hearn told Magistrate Robert Stone.
Wednesday's significant development, after months of delays while the defence sought expert reports into Bortic's blood alcohol reading, comes a few days shy of the one-year anniversary of the horrific crash.
The four men - tradesman who had been working on a major construction project in the area - had been drinking at the Salamander Bay Tavern on the night of April 12.
Bortic was driving a Mazda 3 about 12.50am when he lost control on Soldiers Point Road and slammed into a tree.
Mr Ward died at the scene, while Mr Juerman succumbed to his injuries on route to hospital.
Bortic sustained serious injuries including chest and shoulder fractures and was taken to John Hunter Hospital.
Mr Ashe sustained minor injuries, police said at the time.
A blood test revealed Bortic had a blood alcohol reading over the legal limit and he also tested positive for cannabis, leading forensic pharmacologist Judith Pearl to opine that his ability to drive would have been "very substantially impaired" at the time of the crash.
In the news:
- Newcastle council asks park-and-rider users how much they would pay to keep service running
- Maitland school, cafe and train station on measles watch list
- Sacked former executives question abrupt end for mining regulator
- Man and woman face charges of offensive conduct, accused of engaging in sexual activity on Lake Macquarie bus
- Doma Group lodges new plans for expanded Newcastle apartment, office building