In the aftermath of the crash that killed a young farmer from Danseys Pass - where speed and alcohol were determined to be factors - Judge David Saunders, who sentenced the driver, Regan Edward Laughton (41), of Hakataramea, in the Timaru District Court yesterday, said ''this is not a North Otago issue in isolation'' but rather an issue for all of New Zealand.

Handing down 11 months' home detention to Laughton for his actions on May 9 and 10 last year, Judge Saunders said a judge's sentence was not the most likely way to deter future drink-driving.

''I think that, frankly, the best way is the community taking responsibility in its own areas,'' he said.

''It's a community issue and I don't think a judge can solve that in any sentence.


''At the end of the day, I think the greatest deterrent is the likelihood of being detected.''

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Kurow crash driver branded a 'coward' in court

The 1988 Toyota Landcruiser, driven by Laughton, was carrying Kurow rugby club members and supporters who had been celebrating Kurow's win the previous day - the home side ran in seven tries to beat Maheno 42-0.

When police released the name of the 23-year-old who died in the midnight crash in Hakataramea Valley Rd on May 10 last year, Laughton was in a serious but stable condition in Dunedin Hospital.

Jarrad Ethan Blackler had scored a try in Kurow's win on Saturday; he died from injuries he sustained in the crash at 1.30pm on Monday after he and each of the car's six occupants were thrown from Laughton's Landcruiser at midnight on Sunday.

Kurow premier rugby coach Kevin Malcolm was in the packed courtroom yesterday and agreed with Judge Saunders' remarks.

''Somehow we need to find a way to make community changes to prevent this from happening again, because it is a community thing,'' he said.

Mr Malcolm said the Kurow rugby community was ''still devastated'' by the crash and for the Blackler family.


And he said he felt guilty for not doing something to combat the ''procrastination'' that prolonged the legal proceedings, affecting the community and hurting the Blacklers.

''Somewhere along the line, people have forgotten that while there's a legal thing to be done, people have forgotten, they're people,'' he said. ''That's the part that has really created the greatest angst.

''My biggest regret through this process is that I didn't rattle some cages. I should have done it - and I don't know what that would have been - but that's my biggest regret.''

Laughton's Landcruiser left the road at 104kmh near Cattle Creek and rolled three and a-half times. The police summary of facts states none of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt.

Mr Blackler, who suffered head injuries in the crash, never regained consciousness. He was flown to Dunedin Hospital in a critical condition and on May 11, he was pronounced brain dead. Later, his life support was shut off.

The Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter made two trips after the crash on the Sunday morning; Laughton was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital as well.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter took English national Rob Courtnell - in a critical condition and not expected to survive - and Ashley Boardman to Christchurch.

Mr Courtnell spent about 10 weeks in hospital and a rehabilitation centre in Christchurch before flying home.

Simon Bertenshaw was taken by ambulance to Timaru Hospital, but later flown to Christchurch.

Timothy Anderson was taken to Timaru Hospital by ambulance.

A Waimate police investigation into the crash was completed in June last year, but the decision to charge Laughton did not come until September 3.

Laughton pleaded not guilty to charges before him on November 25 last year, but on September 19 this year he pleaded guilty to amended charges and was remanded for restorative justice.

A breath test was not administered to Laughton at the scene as he was receiving care in an ambulance before being airlifted to Dunedin Hospital.

However, roughly six hours after the crash, at 6am on May 10, he recorded a blood-alcohol level of 42mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The legal limit is 50mg.

In a family statement after Laughton was sentenced yesterday, the Blacklers called for change in what was described in the courtroom as a ''cavalier attitude'' to drink-driving.

''The fact is that this was an avoidable crash - not just 'a bit of bad luck' where, thankfully, one of your own wasn't killed.

''Communities must bear some of the responsibility and do all in their power to stop people making poor decisions and bad judgement calls, especially when a culture for this behaviour has been allowed to develop.''

In the family's statement yesterday, the Blacklers wrote that the crash and the 19-month process for the case to move through the courts had caused division in the Kurow community ''and locals feeling the need to take sides'' between them and Laughton.

Mr Malcolm yesterday called the Blacklers ''tremendous people'' and said he would ''back both sides''.

''If I was going into a fight right now, I would want both of them by my side,'' he said.