Ambah Tuhoro can't shake the horror of the moment she woke to see her bloodied, twisted and dead sister stuck in the driver's seat of her car on State Highway 3.

It's a sight she spoke about in her victim impact statement in the Hamilton District Court this afternoon.

For a reason no one will ever know, Johnathan Daniel Coombe's truck veered across the centre line on a bend on State Highway 3 at Mahoenui, north of Awakino, on February 20.

Coming the other way, heading south, was Darrelee Beckett Tuhoro driving her sister, Ambah, 20, and her two young children, aged 7 months and 2 years.


He had just missed one vehicle, as he got near the centre line, but it was Tuhoro's vehicle he collided with.

With no time for either vehicle to brake, the impact was so severe Darrelee was killed on impact and had to be cut free from the car.

Her sister, a front seat passenger, continues to suffer from head injuries, including memory loss, while her 2-year-old suffered a broken leg and cuts to his face.

Her 7-month-old was uninjured.

He had since told police he had no memory of the crash.

Coombe earlier pleaded guilty to charges of careless driving causing death and two charges of careless driving causing injury.

Appearing before Community Magistrate Ngaire Marcelle in the Hamilton District Court in an emotional sentencing this afternoon, Coombe avoided jail and she accepted there was no intent in causing the crash.

She described the crash as a "tragedy of immense proportions".


Given Coombe couldn't recall what happened, the only available inference police could draw was that he fell asleep or was distracted for an ongoing period of time.

She noted he did have a previous conviction for careless driving after also driving slow due to tiredness.

Johnathan Coombe, of Waharoa, leaves the Hamilton District Court after an earlier appearance. Photo / File
Johnathan Coombe, of Waharoa, leaves the Hamilton District Court after an earlier appearance. Photo / File

His lawyer Seung Youn said he was remorseful and was prepared to use his savings to pay any emotional harm.

He had also since lost his job as a truck driver and had been subject to bail conditions not to drive.

Tuhoro's grandfather, John Tuhoro, and many other family members drove up from Taranaki for the sentencing, packing out the public gallery.

Darrelee's sister Ambah, together with their mother, father, sister and Darrelle's partner Ben all read their victim impact statements to the court.

Choking back tears, they described a loving mother who was not only intelligent but funny, who would now not be able to fulfill her dream of bringing up a big family, with lots more children.

Darrelee's father, Daryl, said burying one of his children was the most heartbreaking thing he has ever had to do.

He explained how the family had only moved to New Plymouth in September last year to set up a business.

Darrelee, her partner, Ben, their two children and sister Ambah stayed in Hamilton, flatting together.

He spoke of how her two children would no longer be able to spend Christmas, birthdays or other special events with their mother, or receive her kisses or hugs.

"She had so much more to give. She wanted a big family ... her life was cut short, in her prime."

However, he was grateful that the crash wasn't a quadruple fatal.

Along with son, AJ, Tuhoro said he felt Coombe wasn't being truthful about what happened that day, why he crossed the centre line and how avoidable it was.

Ambah Tuhoro explained how she now suffered "survivor's guilt" - blaming herself for what happened and wishing that it was her who died that day.

She had just returned from Australia four days earlier, after living there for a year. It was her idea to go to New Plymouth to visit family - but Darrelee wasn't keen to go.

"If I had just listened to her, that she didn't want to go to New Plymouth, maybe our family would still be whole ... our parents would still have a daughter, these babies wold still have a mother."

She now suffers post traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, panic attacks and flashbacks.

"I woke up in a car that was our own but in a world that I didn't recognise. I woke up, lifting my head from the dash only to see my sister staring at me. Lifeless.

"As soon as I looked at her body was twisted, her head was cut open and she had rested on my shoulder. I screamed and I screamed in fear, pain, disbelief .. 'my sister, my sister' and as I tried to grab her and hold her, I couldn't because she was stuck there in wreckage that you created."

Her two children then began crying in the backseat - having forgotten they were also in the car.

She turned to also see them covered in blood.

The image of her sister, dead in the driver's seat would forever continue to haunt her, she said.

In his statement, Darrelee's partner, Ben, described how the crash had turned his life upside down.

He had gone from looking forward to marrying the love of his life with their children, to now becoming a stay-at-home dad.

Coombe was convicted and sentenced to 180 hours of community work, six months supervision and $7000 emotional harm.

He was also disqualified from driving for 15 months.