Guilty plea in fatal bridge crash

By Michele McPherson

Alcohol. Speed. No warrant of fitness. Restricted licence.
These were the deadly ingredients leading up to a car crash that claimed the life of a Tauranga teenager last year.
The smash had a sequel in the High Court at Rotorua yesterday when 19-year-old Te Puke gibstopper Richard Emery pleaded guilty to one charge of manslaughter and three of dangerous driving causing injury.
Emery killed 18-year-old Tauranga passenger Judas Ace Witeri when he crashed off Te Puke's Ohineangaanga rail bridge last July.
Mr Witeri died at the scene after he was thrown from the Emery's Honda Integra after the vehicle smashed through the bridge railing and crashed into a small valley below just after 8am on July 25 .
His body was found under the car.
Emery's five other passengers were also thrown from the vehicle and suffered varying injuries. Among them were Jonah Ahomiro, 15, who suffered a fracture to his skull; Paora Rota, 17, who suffered a paralysed arm; and Te Ahomiro Emery, 20, who received a laceration to his scalp requiring stitches.
The other occupants suffered minor injuries.
Justice Timothy Brewer remanded Emery on bail for sentencing on April 20.
The summary of facts revealed that early on the day of the crash, Emery was at a friend's place in Manoeka Rd, Te Puke, after drinking the night before.
About 8.05am, Emery and six of his friends piled into his four-seated car to drive to Te Puke township.
Neither Emery or his passengers were wearing seatbelts, and one passenger was sitting on the knees of another in the back.
Emery drove normally along Manoeka Rd - but as he turned on to the state highway and through the industrial area and headed into the township, he accelerated and began passing other vehicles at high speed.


Other motorists estimated he drove at up to 140km/h, passing vehicles including a truck.
Witnesses saw Emery and others in the car with their arms out of the windows yelling and giving Mongrel Mob gang signals just before the crash.
Emery was travelling too fast as he approached a moderate left-hand corner leading to the bridge.
He tried to steer around the corner, but lost control, narrowly missing two oncoming vehicles before sliding across the road and smashing through the bridge railing and coming to rest on a valley below.
A blood sample taken from Emery was found to contain 74 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - more than twice the legal limit of 30 mg for someone aged under 20.
He had also been driving on a restricted licence, meaning he should not have been carrying passengers unsupervised and the car was unregistered nor warranted.
Reparation of $8503.06 is sought for the damage to the bridge.
When police spoke to Emery, he admitted being the driver and claimed he was only travelling at 50-55km/h. He further claimed his front wheels felt like they had no grip and "there was nothing I could do".

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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