A man has ended up in court after three of his friends were injured when he rolled the ute he was driving on a rural property while trying to chase a hare.
Reuben Jacob Allan, 44, of Ikawai, had admitted three charges of carelessly operating a vehicle offroad causing injury, in the Timaru District Court in December, following a crash on his farm.
During sentencing at the Oamaru District Court yesterday, the court was told that on July 25 last year Allan and three friends had spent the day together, touring the defendant's farm, duck shooting and drinking.
Late that night the group was relaxing at a shed and ran out of firewood for the brazier they were using to keep warm. They collectively decided to go and get more wood in the defendant's Isuzu ute.
They drove through a paddock, and when a hare was spotted, the defendant turned hard left to chase it and lost control of the vehicle. The ute rolled completely and came to a rest on its left-hand side. None of the men was wearing seatbelts.
All four men managed to get out of the vehicle. One of the men was suspected to have a serious injury and was immobilised on the ground until emergency services arrived.
After being helicoptered to Christchurch Hospital, the man was found to have two dislocated vertebrae in his neck and substantial bruising to his face.
A second passenger was also found to have two dislocated neck vertebrae, a fracture to his lower spine, a perforated eardrum, and a minor bleed on the brain, when he presented himself to Timaru Hospital the following day after not feeling well.
The third passenger had a fractured rib and bruised clavicle.
Allan had openly admitted to consuming alcohol, but was not considered to be intoxicated and was not breath tested.
The defendant had initially applied for a discharge without conviction, because a driving disqualification would affect the support he could provide to his isolated mother and his children, but later withdrew this application.
Defence counsel Emma Middlemass said the victims had been, and remained, close friends of the defendant. A Restorative Justice meeting was held, and Allan had offered them emotional harm payments, which they declined.
In sentencing, Judge Joanna Maize said the defendant had suffered significantly since the incident, including the loss of his $30,000 vehicle which was not covered by insurance. He had also received adverse publicity, which the victims disagreed with.
She acknowledged a driving disqualification would have more impact on him, living rurally, than it would on somebody who lived in town, with closer access to public transport.
An aggravating feature was the fact Allan had consumed alcohol, but it was not a "causative factor'' in the crash.
Judge Maize said she would keep the disqualification to an "absolute minimum'' to reflect Allan's personal circumstances. He was convicted and disqualified from driving for six months. There was no fine imposed due to the costs the defendant had already incurred.