Driver of car that rolled while teen girl hung out of window regrets 'every decision'

By Solbin Kang

Ethan Clarke was extremely remorseful for his actions that lead to a young girl suffering severe brain injuries. Photo / File
Ethan Clarke was extremely remorseful for his actions that lead to a young girl suffering severe brain injuries. Photo / File

An Upper Hutt man who lost control of a car as it rolled, crushing a teenage girl who was hanging out of a window, has been sentenced to six months' community detention.

Ethan Clarke, 20, has pleaded guilty to two charges of driving with excess breath alcohol causing injury at the Hutt Valley District Court in May.

The court heard that on November 30 last year, Clarke, 19 at the time, and four friends were drinking around a bonfire in Upper Hutt.

At about 2am the next morning, Clarke drove his friend's car with four others.

A 16-year-old girl, moved across Clarke's lap and her upper body hung outside the car window as they drove.

On Plateau Rd in Upper Hutt, the back wheel of the car locked up causing it to lose control. The car then tipped over when Clarke tried to regain control.

The victim's upper body was still outside when the car rolled and crushed her, then hit a curb, rolled back upright catapulting the victim out of the vehicle.

She was flown to Wellington Hospital with severe brain injuries, broken back and pelvis bones.

She was in a drug-induced coma in the intensive care unit for more than two weeks.

Another young woman suffered cuts and a lump on her head.

Clarke's blood alcohol level was 153 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, twice the legal limit for an adult.

The alcohol limit for drivers under the age of 20 is zero.

His lawyer Shane Robinson said Clarke's actions were a "remarkable example of making bad stupid decisions" while under the influence of alcohol.

He should have stopped driving when the victim moved across his lap, Robinson said.

A victim impact statement by the young woman read by Judge Bill Hastings stated she may never fully recover from her injuries.

"It has become difficult to read, write and spell, something I excelled at.

"I have limited concentration levels. I struggle with attention span. I'm easily distracted."

Judge Hastings also read the girl's mother's victim impact statement.

"When I received a phone call that [she] was in a car accident, I screamed and threw the phone across the floor.

"I was told I needed to get to Wellington Hospital as they didn't believe [she] was going to live."

The woman said when she arrived in hospital, her daughter looked like she was "dead".

"It was distressing to see her like that not moving."

She said the accident had put a lot of emotional strain on her family.

Clarke cried in the dock as the statements were read out.

A restorative justice report revealed it was an "absolute miracle" the young woman survived, the court heard.

It also stated Clarke didn't go out for seven months after the accident as he was "too scared" and noted that Clarke showed remorse as he had said he made the "stupidest decision" of his life.

"Every decision I made that night was bad."

Judge Hastings acknowledged Clarke's age, his remorse, and his lack of previous convictions.

Clarke was also sentenced to 250 hours of community work, disqualified from driving for a year and ordered to pay $2200 reparations for damages to the car.

- NZ Herald

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