Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

Family forgives killer driver in New Year's Day crash

Lovey Taimani, 22, died after a car driven by a drunk driver crashed on January 1, last year. Photo / Supplied
Lovey Taimani, 22, died after a car driven by a drunk driver crashed on January 1, last year. Photo / Supplied

The family of a woman killed by a drink driver who travelled at speeds of up to 160km/h say they forgive the man behind the wheel.

Papatoetoe man Hingano Anamanu Kala'uta, 23, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 22-year-old Raveuatutaua "Lovey" Taimani, the first road death last year, and was jailed for four years.

In the High Court at Auckland today, the victim's 25-year-old sister Fipe Taimani said the pain and grief caused by the incident was "indescribable".

"I'll never understand what happened the morning my sister lost her life and I don't ever want to understand," she said.

However, she said her family's tight bond and their faith allowed them to get through the trauma together.

"Today me and my family choose to let go of the anger and pain that we have for you and let you know we forgive you," she said.

Kala'uta later responded, turning in the dock to face the packed public gallery.

"I don't know what I can properly say about what happened. I can't say anything more than sorry to you guys. I hope we all learn, especially myself, from what happened and we can one day move on to a better place," he said.

Kala'uta was not initially behind the wheel but ended up there after a dispute with the sober driver in the early hours of January 1, 2015.

According to the summary of facts, the defendant argued with his partner and others in the car while weaving through traffic on the motorway at speeds of up to 160km/h.

The situation was not helped, Justice Mary Peters said, when the woman started hitting the defendant and turning the indicators and windscreen wipers on.

"You ignored your passengers when they yelled at you to stop," the judge said.

While trying to overtake someone, the car initially hit a barrier on the left side of State Highway 1 after spinning out of control, throwing one passenger out into shrubbery.

The car then skidded into the median barrier, the front wheels riding up it.

When it came down, Ms Taimani fell out of the window on to the road.

She died at the scene. Four of the other six passengers were also hospitalised with moderate injuries.

Kala'uta admitted four charges of driving with excess blood alcohol causing injury.

His blood test gave a reading of 89mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

At the time the limit was 80.

A probation report on the defendant found he had a "deep sense of remorse" and Justice Peters agreed that appeared to be true.

She ordered Kala'uta pay the family of Ms Taimani $15,000 and $1250 to each of the other victims.

One of those hurt in the crash was his partner Lavinia Naufahu whom he married in March while on bail.

The pair also had a son together at the end of last year, a week shy of the anniversary of the fatal crash, the court heard.

Kala'uta's lawyer Nalesoni Tupou said the driving was "very, very reckless" and labelled it a combination of alcohol and attitude.

Justice Peters also banned Kala'uta from driving for four years, to begin on his release from prison.

NZME rk

- NZ Herald

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