In a split-second, two families changed forever.
September 30, 2013, started off just like any other day for Jacqueline Sparks, an expectant mother just weeks away from giving birth to her first child.
She was never to know that by the end of that day, her world would be turned upside down and the brightest light in her life would be extinguished.
Marco Paul Silvestri’s life also changed that day.
He too had no idea that his decision to get behind the wheel while affected by drugs would not only condemn him to a lengthy prison sentence, but ultimately saddle him with the haunting knowledge that his actions robbed a woman of motherhood; a father of the chance to see his daughter grow up; and cut short the life of a child before it had even begun.
Ms Sparks and her brothers Jonathan and Timothy were on their way to pick up dinner when Silvestri’s Mercedes Benz van crossed to the wrong side of the road and collided with their Honda on the Mullet Creek bridge at Dapto.
The little car didn’t stand a chance, crumbling around the three passengers on impact.
All had to be extracted from the vehicle and with life-threatening injuries were taken to different hospitals.
While her brothers’ injuries have left both of them permanently changed physically and mentally, it is no doubt Ms Sparks’ fate is most heartbreaking: baby Mia, at 32 weeks, was removed from Ms Sparks’ ruptured uterus but could not be saved.
Perhaps even more devastating was the subsequent news that Ms Sparks’ injuries had rendered her infertile.
‘‘It’s changed our lives,’’ Ms Sparks said outside Sutherland courthouse on Wednesday, shortly after Silvestri was handed a maximum eight-year prison sentence on three charges of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.
‘‘No-one should have to go through that.’’
But Ms Sparks was quick to remind people that there were no winners in such cases, and she believed Silvestri was genuinely sorry.
‘‘His life has changed as well,’’ she said.
‘‘His children have now lost their father, his wife has lost her husband.’’
In handing down the sentence, Judge Paul Conlon said Silvestri’s manner of driving that day constituted ‘‘nothing less than serious criminal conduct’’.
‘‘A licence to drive a motor vehicle is a privilege which carries with it significant obligations,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m satisfied [Silvestri] abandoned his responsibility to other users of the roadway and his moral culpability is high.’’
Judge Conlon set a non-parole period of six years, making Silvestri only eligible for release in September 2020.
Heartache pushes case for Zoe’s Law
After losing her unborn baby in a crash caused by a drug-affected driver, Jacqueline Sparks has implored politicians to pass a law that would’ve recognised her daughter Mia as a person.
Speaking outside Sutherland District Court, Ms Sparks said she supported the bill, dubbed Zoe’s law, which would have meant her unborn child was recognised in court.
Under proposed changes before NSW Parliament, someone could be charged with harming a foetus that is either 20 weeks or 400 grams by allowing it to be treated as a living person.
‘‘Hopefully if this law gets passed it might help another family if this ever happens to them. To at least see their child recognised,’’ she said. In a victim impact statement previously read to court, Ms Sparks described Mia as ‘‘my angel, my ultimate life blessing, the first of many we had hoped.’’
In sentencing Silvestri, Judge Paul Conlon recognised the loss of Mia had been been ‘‘truly devastating’’. ‘‘One only has to look at the photograph of Ms Sparks in the hospital bed looking down at her perfectly formed, although dead, baby daughter in her arms,’’ he said.
Zoe’s law was introduced by then-Liberal MP Chris Spence last year and is named in honour of the unborn child of Brodie Donegan who was hit by a drug-affected driver on Christmas Day in 2009.
The private member’s bill has stalled in the upper house.
Mr Spence, who has since become embroiled in the state’s donations scandal and is quitting Parliament at the March election, hoped Judge Conlon’s comments sparked action.
Judge Conlon rejected Silvestri’s claims he had a ‘‘brain fart’’ and was confused about the road’s lane configuration.