James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Arguing after crash 'distressing'

Family were more interested in laying blame than in finding and helping dying victims, witness tells court.

Welcome Bay Rd near Tauranga in which two sisters, Brooklyn Clark and Merepeka Morehu, were killed. File photo / Alan Gibson
Welcome Bay Rd near Tauranga in which two sisters, Brooklyn Clark and Merepeka Morehu, were killed. File photo / Alan Gibson

A woman who arrived at the scene of a major car accident that killed two sisters says arguing family members seemed more concerned about who was driving than attending to the dying teenagers.

Pamela Allan arrived at the scene on Welcome Bay Rd in Tauranga on Christmas Day 2011 with her partner moments after Hetaraka Reihana lost control of the Honda accord he was driving and ploughed side-on into an oncoming ute.

Merepeka, 14, and Brooklyn Morehu-Clark, 13, who were in the rear seat and not wearing seatbelts, were flung from the Honda and died at the scene.

Reihana, Haki Davey and the sisters' mother, Phillippa Morehu, are on trial in the High Court at Hamilton, each facing two counts of manslaughter.

The Crown is trying to prove that the three were racing each other to a family cemetery, leading to the accident.

Ms Allan said she pulled a passenger from the front seat of the car Reihana was driving as he paced up and down the road.

"The driver was saying, 'Aunty made me do it, I knew I shouldn't have driven, I've had too much to drink."'

Ms Allan said the situation became more volatile as family members from a nearby house arrived and began arguing.

"The behaviour of the people there was quite distressing in that there was more concern about who shouldn't have been driving than finding the people in the accident, for example the body [of Merepeka] that lay there on its own."

In a recorded interview shown to the jury, Davey told police that he, Morehu and Reihana were all "medium drunk" when they drove off from Morehu's home.

Another witness, Brent Rogers, recalled hearing a "sonic boom" just as he and several of his friends were about to tuck into their Christmas dinner.

Mr Rogers ran to the scene and found a delirious Reihana moaning and crying.

St John Ambulance paramedic Leanne Barnett said she examined Reihana, who confirmed he had drunk "a couple of beers" and about five shots of vodka.

"He said he didn't want to drive ... at one stage he said his aunt [Morehu] put the keys in his hands."

The trial before Justice Murray Gilbert continues.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 27 Nov 2014 10:48:24 Processing Time: 462ms