Horror Gisborne crash: Passenger broke every bone in her body

The accident on SH2 near Te Karaka, where the two cars collided. Photo / Paul Rickard
The accident on SH2 near Te Karaka, where the two cars collided. Photo / Paul Rickard

A driver who sped past police, refused to stop and crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle near Te Karaka last Easter has been jailed.

All seven occupants of both vehicles were seriously injured, including driver Tyson Maxwell Matenga, 27, and his 4-year-old son who was asleep, unrestrained, on the back seat.

A passenger in the rear seat of Matenga's vehicle was flung through the windscreen - breaking every major bone in her body.

In the oncoming vehicle, Rock Pere, 39, was travelling with his two daughters, aged 19 and 8, to Gisborne to visit family. Pere was so badly injured, he has been on ACC ever since and is unlikely to ever return to his career in construction.

Matenga was sentenced in Gisborne District Court by Judge Warren Cathcart, who jailed him for two years, 11 months and disqualified him from driving for three years.

He pleaded guilty to six charges of reckless use causing injury - an offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Also covered by the sentence were unrelated offences, many while on bail, of assault, escaping custody, threatening behaviour and twice failing to attend court.

But the crash was "without doubt" the most serious, Judge Cathcart said.

On March 25 last year, Matenga was driving north on Matawai Rd towards Te Karaka in drizzly wet conditions. The traffic flow had started to build for the long weekend.

He had three passengers on board - his brother Mathew Puhipuhi aka Matenga, sister-in-law Nikisha Green, and young son Rioss Smith-Matenga.

Detected speeding by an unmarked police vehicle on the road ahead, Matenga refused to stop, "arrogantly" speeding past the patrol car which clocked him travelling at 136km/h near McMillan and Poynter Rds, the judge said.

He continued at high speed, lost control at a moderate 75km/h bend near Pitcher Rd and crossed the centre line.

An oncoming car was driven by Pere's 19-year-old daughter Varshan, who had recently passed her driver licence and was getting some open road experience, with her father in the passenger seat beside her.

Seeing Matenga's car reeling out of control towards them, Pere grabbed the steering wheel and tried to evade a crash. But the vehicles hit head-on, just off centre.

They crushed as much as possible on initial impact, then separated and rotated away in opposite directions before impacting again.

Matenga's sister-in-law Green was flung from the rear of his car through the windscreen and was caught on the outside of one of the vehicles, before hitting the ground. Her legs, arms, and wrists were broken, along with her pelvis, collarbone and a clavicle.

She suffered a punctured lung, broken eye sockets, jaw, nose, cheekbone and teeth.

Pere tried to get out and help his daughters but collapsed due to his injuries.

The girls were removed later from the vehicle by emergency services.

Matenga, his son and his brother all had to be cut from the wreckage.

Everyone needed hospital treatment.

In a victim impact statement he read to the court, Pere said the other car came out of nowhere.

He suffered a fractured left knee, fractured right foot, several fractures to his sternum, broken ribs, a collapsed left lung, blood clots to his right lung, a broken right wrist and scaphoid.

His wrist was so badly damaged his surgeon told him he would not work as a builder again. Building was his passion.

That news was devastating, Pere said.

He transferred to North Shore Hospital after eight days in Gisborne Hospital's intensive care unit and had a six-hour surgery. He was an inpatient for three months.

He went home in a wheelchair. He needed help with basic self-care including having others wipe his backside, Pere said. It was humbling and embarrassing. His pain at times was unbearable.

He had been subject to MRIs, counselling, poked and prodded, humiliated, taken large amounts of medication, had huge mood swings and often felt depressed.

He had been the sole income earner for his family, which suffered great financial loss. ACC only paid to settle his wages. His partner had to fly to Gisborne and stay in the city after the accident.

In Auckland, she had to borrow cars to visit him in hospital where parking was expensive.

His youngest daughter Golaka was still severely traumatised, fearful of travelling in cars, found it hard to get to sleep, and woke at nights screaming.

Her little body took such a thrashing, she was still in ongoing pain and receiving treatment, Pere said.

The incident had also traumatised him, Pere said. He found it hard to move forward. He had so much anger.

He had been taking his girls on a holiday doing everything right. When his girls needed him, he was unable to be there for them.

They wanted him to forgive Matenga but found it hard. Matenga had never contacted them.

"We became victims when we were doing everything right. I feel there is no justice," Pere said.

Sentencing Matenga for the driving and unrelated offences, Judge Cathcart set a starting point at 40 months imprisonment.

There was a four-month uplift to mark Matenga's bail status during some of the offending and for his previous relevant convictions for other driving and violent offending.

Pleas in mitigation put by counsel Leighvi Maynard earned Matenga a four-month discount. But the judge questioned the extent to which submissions could be taken into account.

Letter writers told the court Matenga was a good father, yet he had put his son at risk with his arrogant behaviour, the judge said.

Had Matenga truly been unable to contact the Pere family? His expression of remorse that day in court was too little, too late, the judge said.

Matenga was the author of his own misfortune. Discount for the injuries he suffered would be modest, the judge said.

He would get only 10 per cent of the full 25 per cent discount for pleading guilty to the driving matters. He had waited six months to enter his pleas, twice failing to attend court.

The assault matter resulted in a three-month prison term, the failures to attend court a month each, the threatening behaviour one month, and the escaping charge two months jail. All would be served concurrently with the driving, Judge Cathcart said.

Summarising the separate assault matter, Judge Cathcart said Matenga obviously thought he could drive how he wanted and fight how he wanted.

In the early hours of January 3, 2016, Matenga and his brother were in a group involved in tensions with another group outside Gisborne's Sugar nightclub.

Matenga and his brother removed their shoes and each approached two men kickboxing style. The targeted men backed off but Matenga and his brother kept advancing.

Bystanders intervened until police arrived.

The escaping charge on July 28 last year involved Matenga refusing to go to the police station when told about warrants for his arrest.

Pursued by an officer, Matenga turned around and said, "I'll knock your f***ing head off".

He fled further down a road but the officer caught up, at which stage Matenga clenched his fists and said, "You wanna f***ing go? I'll knock you out."

The officer pepper-sprayed him.

- Gisborne Herald

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