Killer driver left dying mate behind
A driver who fled police before crashing, killing a passenger and leaving two others badly injured and then tried to flee the scene has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Hamilton man Cameron Thomas, 34, of no fixed abode, appeared via audio-video link from prison in the High Court in Hamilton yesterday.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of causing the death of Shane Hohepa.
The maximum penalty for manslaughter is life imprisonment.
Thomas also pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless driving causing injury, and one of failing to render assistance following a fatal accident, all relating to the crash that happened at the corner of Moore and Scott Streets in Leamington, Cambridge, shortly before 7pm on September 27.
That night a BMW was the subject of a phone call to police from a person concerned about the erratic way it was being driven.
It was Thomas who was behind the wheel of that BMW.
About 6.30pm a police officer driving a marked patrol car spotted it travelling east on Wordsworth St.
At the same time, Thomas spotted the police car and hit the accelerator.
The police officer activated the lights and sirens and did a U-turn in a bid to stop Thomas, who was now speeding south down Scott St.
He zoomed through the intersection with Campbell St - past a give way sign - without slowing down.
He did the same thing at an intersection with Browning St.
Then he lost control. He hit a car parked on the left hand side of Scott St, and the BMW began to spin, its momentum carrying it 100 metres further down the road and tipping it onto its side, finally sliding to a stop against a sign post.
Hohepa, who was a passenger in the car’s back seat, suffered severe injuries and died at the scene.
Another back seat passenger, Brooke Whitehead, was thrown from the vehicle.
The other passenger, Frederick Daley, was thrown around inside the car, eventually landing on top of Hohepa.
Daley and Whitehead both suffered head injuries.
Thomas was, for the most part, uninjured.
He ran from the car without stopping to check on his dead and injured passengers.
Police, with the assistance of nearby residents, managed to catch him further down the road and he was arrested.
Thomas was breath tested and he returned a result of 501 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath - more than twice the legal driving limit of 250 micrograms.
He admitted to the police he had consumed alcohol and was the driver.
He told them he had failed to stop because he knew that he was disqualified.
Thomas, who was represented in court by barrister Kerry Burroughs, was remanded in further custody by Justice Sarah Katz until his sentencing on December 12.
‘‘I don’t want to be sentenced in December,’’ Thomas told the judge.
Katz remained firm: ‘‘There has to be a good reason to put [the sentencing] off,’’ she said.
Thomas replied: ‘‘I have back injuries from the car accident, and it would hurt me to come to court and sit in those hard concrete chairs all day.’’
Justice Katz ruled the sentencing go ahead on December 12, unless there were a compelling reason for it to be adjourned.
She also issued Thomas with a first strike warning for serious offenders.
Charges of driving with excess breath alcohol, failing to stop for police and driving while disqualified will be withdrawn at Thomas’ sentencing.