Victim's family set to forgive driver

By Mike Dinsdale -
One of the two vehicles involved in the fatal crash. Photo / John Stone
One of the two vehicles involved in the fatal crash. Photo / John Stone

A grieving father extended an olive branch of forgiveness to the man who killed his daughter and another driver during an emotional court address.

Caleb Mormon Reo Erueti, 27, appeared for sentence in the Whangarei District Court yesterday after earlier pleading guilty to two charges of dangerous driving causing death and three of dangerous driving causing injury after the crash on State Highway 1, Hukerenui, on February 17, this year.

His car was unwarranted and unregistered at the time.

Erueti's partner Joanne Whare, 24, of Kaikohe, died in Whangarei Hospital after the crash while Murray Hemara, 53, of Rawhiti, who was a passenger in the other car, died at the scene.

Mr Hemara's partner Ti Miringa Hoori, Erueti and Ms Whare's children, aged 2 and 3 at the time, were injured in the crash.

Ms Whare's father Dennis Whare delivered an emotional speech to the court before Judge Stan Thorburn sentenced Erueti, saying the family held no animosity towards Erueti over what happened.

Mr Whare said the family had grieved enough. Erueti was his grandchildren's father and as they had already lost their mother, the family did not want them to lose their dad too.

The police summary of facts said Erueti was stopped in his Holden in Kaikohe on February 16 and issued with fines for having no warrant or registration.

The following day, Erueti, Ms Whare and their children went to Whangarei Hospital for an appointment. However, they missed the appointment and left feeling upset. In an overtaking lane at Hukerenui on the way back to Kaikohe, Erueti was travelling at around 120km/h and his driving attracted the attention of other motorists.

As he passed Rusk Rd shortly before 6pm, Erueti was partly in the other lane when he saw the car driven by Ms Hoori approaching and tried to get back into his lane. However, the car started snaking and the rear hit the front passenger side of the approaching Toyota.

The impact pushed the Toyota back and left the Holden's number plate embedded in the front of the Toyota.

An examination found the Holden had two bald rear tyres and the speedometer and lights were not working.

After the crash Erueti told police he was emotional after missing the hospital appointment and admitted that this may have impacted on his driving.

Judge Thorburn said Erueti had the "amazing" benefit of the forgiving attitude of Ms Whare's family.

"Forgiveness was not actually stated, but not harbouring animosity is a step on the path for their forgiveness," Judge Thorburn said.

He sentenced Erueti to two-and-a-half years' jail on the two dangerous driving causing death charges and 12 months' jail on the remaining three, with all terms to run concurrently.

The judge said the crash had impacted greatly on Erueti's physical and mental health.

He also disqualified Erueti from driving for five years and wrote off the $11,000 of outstanding fines Erueti had accrued.

Erueti had convictions for two drink driving in offences 2007 and two for disqualified driving in 2008. He only had a learner licence at the time of the crash.

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