A drink driver who crashed head-on into a van while five times the legal blood alcohol limit pleaded guilty today.

Dairy owner Nileshkumar Vallabh Patel nearly mowed down a group of school students walking home on a footpath before he veered into an oncoming van.

After the smash, police arrested him but he was so intoxicated he "couldn't comprehend what had happened'', the court was told.

The 34-year-old from Kaiapoi, 15km north of Christchurch, appeared at Rangiora District Court today to plead guilty to driving with a blood-alcohol reading of 406 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood - more than five times the legal limit of 80 milligrams.


He also admitted a dangerous driving charge when Kaiapoi High School students were walking home along Ohoka Rd at 3.15pm on August 16.

Judge Oke Blaikie called for pre-sentence and reparation reports to be prepared, for when Patel is sentenced on October 19.

He also asked for community work and home detention appendices to be provided for the sentencing judge.

Police asked for a bail condition for Patel not to consume alcohol until then, given the "extremely high'' reading.

The court was told Patel was convicted of drink-driving charge two years ago when he was caught with a breath alcohol level of three times the legal limit.

Outside court, sitting at Nga Hau e Wha marae in Christchurch, Patel refused to speak, with his lawyer John Brandts-Giesen saying, "He's got no comment to make'' before bundling him into his car.

Police and Ministry of Justice officials were today unable to confirm reports that it was the highest drink driving level ever recorded in Canterbury, and the second highest in New Zealand history. Neither department keep those figures, they said.

But the level of Patel's drunkenness certainly stunned officers at the scene.


"It's definitely the highest reading I've come across in 16 years of policing,'' said Senior Constable Mike Farrall of Kaiapoi Police.

"To speak to (after the crash) he was incoherent. He didn't have a clue what was going on.

"We'll be keeping a very close eye on his sentence, that's for sure.''