Otago Daily Times

Firewood collecting drive led to crash



A DAY of drinking and duckshooti­ng on a North Otago farm went horribly wrong when a man driving a ute made a hard left turn in pursuit of a hare.

Reuben Jacob Allan (44), of Ikawai, had admitted, in the Timaru District Court in December, three charges of carelessly operating a vehicle (not on a road) causing injury following a crash on his North Otago farm.

During sentencing in the Oamaru District Court yesterday, the court heard that on July 25 last year, Allan and three friends had spent the day together, touring the defendant’s farm, duckshooti­ng, and consuming alcohol.

Late that night the group was relaxing at a shed and ran out of firewood for the brazier they were using to keep warm. They collective­ly decided to go and get more wood in the defendant’s Isuzu ute.

They drove through a paddock, and when a hare was spotted, the defendant turned hard left to chase it and lost control. The ute rolled completely and came to a rest on its lefthand side. None of the men were wearing seatbelts.

All four men managed to get out of the vehicle. One was suspected to have a serious injury and was immobilise­d on the ground until emergency services arrived.

After being flown to Christchur­ch Hospital, the man was found to have two dislocated vertebrae in his neck and substantia­l bruising to his face.

A second passenger, who presented himself to Timaru Hospital the following day, after feeling unwell, was also found to have two dislocated neck vertebrae, a fracture to his lower spine, a perforated eardrum, and a minor bleed on the brain.

The third passenger had a fractured rib and bruised clavicle.

Allan had openly admitted consuming alcohol, but was not considered to be intoxicate­d and was not breathtest­ed.

The defendant had initially applied for a discharge without conviction, because a driving disqualifi­cation would affect the support he could provide to his isolated mother and his children, but later withdrew this applicatio­n.

Defence counsel Emma Middlemass said the victims had been, and remained close friends of the defendant. A restorativ­e justice meeting was held, and Allan had offered them emotional harm payments, which they declined.

Summing up, Judge Joanna Maize said the defendant had suffered significan­tly since the incident, including the loss of his $30,000 vehicle, which was not covered by insurance. He had also received ‘‘adverse publicity, which the victims disagreed with’’.

She acknowledg­ed a driving disqualifi­cation would have more impact on him, living rurally, than it would on somebody who lived in town.

An aggravatin­g feature was the fact Allan had consumed alcohol, but it was not a “causative factor’’ in the crash.

Judge Maize said she would keep the disqualifi­cation to an “absolute minimum’’ to reflect Allan’s personal circumstan­ces. He was convicted and disqualifi­ed from driving for six months. There was no fine imposed due to the costs the defendant had already incurred.

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