Grieving families speak as Timaru driver jailed for crash that killed 5

Lisa Davies
Source: 1News

The sole survivor of a crash that killed five Timaru teenagers has been sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment on five charges of dangerous driving causing death in the High Court in Timaru on Wednesday.

Tyreese Fleming.

Tyreese Fleming, 19, who was driving on a restricted license he’d only held for two days, had been drinking before he got behind the wheel and was originally charged five counts of manslaughter.

Javarney Drummond, 15; Niko Hill, 15; Jack Wallace, 16; Joseff McCarthy, 16; and Andrew Goodger, 15, were all killed when the overloaded car they were travelling in hit a concrete power pole on August 6 last year. The impact of the high speed crash left the Nissan Bluebird in two pieces.

Today, 40 family members of the boys who died filled the public gallery of the High Court in Timaru. Sixteen of their emotionally charged victim impact statements filled with loss were read to the court.

Andrew was travelling in the boot of the car. His father Richard told the court he lost his son in the prime of is life, when he tragically made a mistake getting in the car with a drunk driver.

"It was sheer hell the night my son never came home…since Andrew was killed I am living in an absolute hell hole, I no longer have interest in Christmas, I will never celebrate another one of Andrew’s birthdays again," he said.

Andrew mother Andrea says: “It wasn't ‘til his funeral it began to sink in he was never coming home in such a senseless waste of life due to the actions of someone else…I will find forgiveness but I don't know when that will be. Tyreese you have caused five beautiful boys' deaths and you should be accountable for your actions.”

His sister Jorja wore a t-shirt bearing a photo of her brother. She said: “You took my favourite person in the world due to your stupid, stupid, mistakes, the day I saw him lying there I knew my life was ruined … I'll never forgive you for what you've done, you should have life in prison for what you've done."

Carissa Hill, Niko's mother, told the court her heart shattered into a million pieces when she was told her son had died in the crash.

“My life ended the day Niko died and left this earth ... five families lost their sons that day ... it was terrible, horrific. I know this was an accident, but Tyreese your hands were on the steering wheel. It’s because of you I will never see my son again."

Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae urged the judge to consider a prison sentence with a starting point of six years, not home detention, to act as a deterrent for others.

READ MORE: Families say driver's sentence won't soften blow of losing kids

He says: “He was an inexperienced driver, on his restricted license for just three days, in breach with passengers, and consumption of alcohol. Essentially he was 48 times the level he was permitted to be. Consuming alcohol the way he did… ‘vortexing’ the bottle.. the Crown say was a significant feature in this case.”

Defence lawyer Thomas Nation says Fleming would like to take part in a road safety campaign video, and offered to pay reparation of $20,000 if home detention was imposed, and has shown remorse.

He read a statement from Fleming apologising to the families.

“To all the victim’s families and everyone in this community I am truly sorry for what I've caused, I'm so angry for the bad decisions I made on that night, it’s affected people forever especially those who lost their beloved sons.

Justice Rob Osborne said he sentenced Fleming to over two years behind bars, “to discourage others who would engage in similar dangerous driving”.

While most of the families sat in silence, one man left shouting and swearing in anger at Fleming about the irreparable damage his actions have done.