The grieving partner of Matthew Paul Pettigrew, who died after being struck by a freight train, says she will never get over losing the "love of her life".

Sophia McDowell made the comment during an emotionally-charged sentencing hearing for Chris Harrison Mackie, 50, in Tauranga District Court on Wednesday.

Mackie earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of causing the death of Pettigrew while driving with an excess blood alcohol of 151 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The charge stemmed from Mackie's decision to take a shortcut home on February 23 after visiting a local creek and then driving a Polaris quad bike onto the Apata rail bridge.


An oncoming train hit the quad bike and Pettigrew, who had tried to jump out of the way, was killed.

McDowell, who read her victim impact statement to the court, said the emotional, psychological and financial trauma of losing Pettigrew had "wrecked" her life.

On hearing of the crash, McDowell said she rushed to the scene and held her partner of nine years in her arms until emergency services arrived, something she relived every day.

"Matt was my best friend, my fishing buddy and the love of my life.

"Chris, your actions have taken away everything I held dear, and Matt never got to see his new grandchild or see his son get married."

Colin and Shirley Pettigrew, who also read their victim impact statement to the court, said no parent should ever have to bury their child, particularly in those circumstances.

Colin Pettigrew said he and his wife were "very concerned" about McDowell's health and welfare since the accident and they would never get over the loss of their beloved son.

Judge Christopher Harding said the facts of the case were "sad and different" from most other drink-driving cases which often were accompanied by other aggravating factors.

"This case is a tragedy for all concerned and it has obviously changed the lives of Mr Mackie, Ms McDowell and Matthew Pettigrew's family and his friends forever."


Judge Harding said he accepted Mackie was genuinely remorseful and also took into account his attendance at restorative justice meetings and willingness to make amends.

The judge said he was satisfied the case did not justify sending Mackie to prison and sentenced him to 12 months' home detention and 120 hours' community work.

Judge Harding also disqualified Mackie from driving for two years and ordered him to pay $5000 reparation to McDowell at $50 a week.