The family of a dad killed by a drunk driver have shared their forgiveness for the man who turned their world upside down.

Lowe Hutt man Sione Tuiano's family don't want drunk driver Manus Joseph Cannon to be jailed over the crash that claimed their loved one, as they want him to be able to raise his own two children - something Sione will never get to do.

The 24-year-old and his two brothers had been celebrating a family member's birthday when they jumped in the car on the night of July 2, 2017.

Cannon was also on the roads, intoxicated after a pre-Lions v All Blacks match pub crawl.

Advertisement

READ MORE

Father of two killed in Hutt Valley crash
Upper Hutt man charged with drink driving causing death of Sione 'Bah' Tuaino
Guilty plea to drink driving causing death of Sione Tuiano

"I remember seeing a car, seeing a light on our side of the motorway," brother Robert Tuiano said.

"Waking up from the accident, I was hoping it was just a dream."

Asinate Tuiano (left), Una Tuiano and Robert Tuiano lost their family member Sione Tuiano in a horror car crash one year ago. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Asinate Tuiano (left), Una Tuiano and Robert Tuiano lost their family member Sione Tuiano in a horror car crash one year ago. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Robert suffered a broken foot and torn ligament in his leg, while brother Una Tuiano, who was driving the car, fractured his left femur and suffered a torn PCL ligament.

Una had a steel rod inserted in his leg, and a year on from the crash still needs a crutch to walk. It was about two months before he could even get out of a wheelchair.

When he woke up in hospital badly injured, he was told his passengers were all alive.

"I remember I felt kind of happy no one's hurt, until I fully recovered and they told me my brother had passed away, and that really broke me down and turned my life upside down.

Advertisement

"If I had to pick, I would rather it was me than my brother, because I've got no children at this stage."

He still has no memory of the crash, and has struggled with guilt for a long time, blaming himself for not being able to protect his passengers.

In an emotional court hearing in March, Cannon pleaded guilty to one count of drink driving causing death and four counts of drink driving causing injury.

The 36-year-old had been driving with 133mg of alcohol in his blood at the time, when the legal limit was 50mg.

He will be sentenced in Wellington on Tuesday, a year and one day after the fatal crash. He could not be reached for comment.

Since the plea, the family have had a restorative justice meeting with him. Sione's parents told Cannon they forgave him.

"We forgave Manus and we want Manus to continue to be a dad to his two kids, we don't want him to end up in prison," sister Eseta Tuiano said.

Sione's mother, Asinate Tuiano, said she wanted to tell Cannon not to drink and drive again.

"If he believe in God, you know, he won't like what he did," she said.

Una said after meeting Cannon he was "working towards forgiveness for him".

"He's a good guy. He just made one terrible mistake - that mistake took my brother's life."

Only a year apart in age, Una refers to Sione as his "twin" and said they often had deep talks with each other.

Since the crash, Una found himself withdrawing. He no longer wanted to do things he used to do with his brother, including socialising, drinking kava, going out on the weekend, and going to church.

"We helped each other out, and now he's not here, I've lost interest . . . it's like a big part of myself."

Una Tuiano still needs a crutch to walk a year after the fatal crash. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Una Tuiano still needs a crutch to walk a year after the fatal crash. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Tuiano family had dealt with their grief by digging deep in their Christian faith.

"I know my mother prays a lot. That's where I think she gets her strength from, you know, is praying and leaving it all to God."

Eseta Tuiano said the death had affected her parents the most.

She said her brother was funny, loud, a great singer, devoted to church, a great rugby league player, and "the life of the party".

"When he was around, everyone would laugh, laugh till they're sick to their stomach.

"We miss him so much, every day that we miss him, we miss his voice, you know, just walking in the door. I know that he's at peace."

Sione's kids visit Eseta every weekend. His 6-year-old daughter, Ane Faraimo-Tuiano, still asks for her father.

"We don't know what to tell her."