When Michael Cole heard a pre-dawn knock at his door last winter and found two police officers on his doorstep, he faced that awful, gut-wrenching moment all parents dread.
"It was a day which changed my life forever," he said, reading from a victim impact statement.
"The police told me my son had been in a car accident and they wouldn't be standing in front of me if it wasn't very serious.
"I asked: 'Is he dead?' and held my breath for what felt like an eternity."
The ACT Magistrates Court was told Mr Cole's 19-year-old son, Eli, had accepted a lift home to Harrison in the back seat of a Ford Falcon driven by Joshua Cannizzaro. The driver's girlfriend, Alicia Knight, had been in the front asleep.
Cannizzaro admitted he had been drinking alcohol and had consumed a drug he thought to have been ecstasy but was later confirmed to be methylamphetamine.
It had been raining that evening and Baldwin Drive in Kaleen was wet. About 12.20am the car skidded out of control, hit a guard rail, and rolled on its roof.
In those brief, flickering seconds of time, multiple lives were changed forever.
Ms Knight managed to scramble out through a broken window and phone triple zero.
Eli Cole's right leg was almost severed through the knee as a result of the crash. He also sustained a broken femur, liver laceration, and widespread bruises and abrasions. His leg couldn't be saved. Somehow the fat from his broken thigh bone had entered his brain and caused brain damage.
He was in a coma for weeks, and intensive care at the Canberra Hospital for 24 days. This was followed by six months of treatment at Liverpool Hospital's specialist brain rehabilitation unit. Post-traumatic incidents, some of them violent in nature, caused him to be admitted to Canberra's adult mental health unit.
The knock-on effects and trauma of the incident have torn a family apart. As a result, Mr Cole has separated from his partner, lost his job, and continues to struggle financially.
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"Whenever I hear a car speeding, tyres screeching or a loud engine I go into a panic and even feel angry towards the recklessness and complete disregard of people on our roads," he said.
In her statement, Eli Cole's mother, Kellie Bantoft, said that each day she wakes up "not knowing what the day might bring or if we will end up back at the hospital yet again".
"My own health is deteriorating, but due to Eli's ongoing medical issues I don't have the time or the money to be able to get myself the care I need," she said.
"All I can do at the moment is try and be prepared for the unexpected each day."
When blood samples were taken from Cannizzaro after the crash, his blood-alcohol reading was .112.
He was later charged with culpable driving causing grievous bodily harm, and pleaded guilty. In a brief statement to the court on Wednesday, he expressed his remorse for what occurred that fateful night.
Eli Cole says he doesn't want to see himself as a victim, but a survivor.
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker will sentence Cannizzaro on Thursday.
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