Boy racers get jail for death of girl

By Anna Ferrick

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The crash scene where Maree Schafer was killed after being a rear-seat passenger in a Holden racing with a Ford in Napier.
The crash scene where Maree Schafer was killed after being a rear-seat passenger in a Holden racing with a Ford in Napier.

The mother of a Hawkes Bay teenager killed during an illegal street race has described her heartache to three young men charged in relation to the race.

Brandon Lawrence, 19, Jesse Ellmers, 18, and Adam O'Sullivan, 17, appeared in the Napier District Court today after previously pleading guilty to charges of unnecessary exhibition of speed causing death and unnecessary exhibition of speed causing injury.

Judge Geoff Rea sentenced the trio to two years and three months' imprisonment for their involvement and disqualified them from driving for four years.

The court heard today that the teenagers were part of a Holden versus Ford race that was planned on the night of February 19 this year, during which the vehicles reached speeds of up to 180km/h.

Maree Schafer, 18, was the sole rear-seat passenger in a Holden Commodore driven by Lawrence when it slid sideways across the road and hit a tree, fatally injuring her.

Her mother read a victim impact statement to the court describing the impact on her and Maree's siblings.

"No mother should have to bury their child before them.''

She described her eldest daughter as her best friend and confidante who could fix the world with her smile.

Police charged four people with racing causing death and racing causing injury, including the drivers of both cars.

They said at the time charges were laid that it was a warning to anyone involved in boy racer activity that they could end up facing serious charges and be held culpable for the consequences of their actions. That included passengers and spectators, or anyone else who encouraged or aided someone to commit such offences.

Matthew O'Sullivan, 20, the alleged driver of the other car, pleaded not guilty and is expected to proceed to trial.

Ellmers was a passenger in the car being driven by Matthew O'Sullivan.

Adam O'Sullivan was the driver of a third car that did not participate in the race. He was also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice after he told two passengers in his car to lie to police about what happened during the race.

Judge Rea said all three that pleaded guilty were equally culpable.

Judge Rea thanked members of Ms Schafer's family for the ``eloquent and moving'' victim impact statements that reflected the nature of the tragedy.

"There is nothing the court can say that's going to change anything, no sentence will change the lifelong burden you have been left with.''

Commenting on the illegal racing, he said:

"Obviously extremely high speeds involved in this, the speeds were ridiculous, these young men had no ability to control their vehicles.

"I conclude they are all equally responsible, they all had a role to play ... No one stepped forward to stop it.''

He said the young men showed "no consideration or concern'' when organising the race which took up both sides of the road.

"It defies belief that a group of young men thought it acceptable to use the width of the whole road ... The stupidity of what you were doing was evident to anyone looking.''

Sergeant Cory Ubels of the serious crash unit said today's sentences should be a warning to everyone involved in boy racing activity.

"It's not just the drivers - passengers and spectators or anyone else who encourages or aids someone to commit these offences can also be charged.''

Police would continue to closely monitor boy racer activity in the district and would not hesitate to prosecute anyone for any illegal boy racer activity.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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