An underage driver who caused a Boxing Day car crash that killed three of his friends has been ordered by a judge to give talks to schools and youth groups to "try and prevent a tragedy like this ever happening again".
Cole Troy Christensen-Hull, Samuel "Sammy" James Drost, and Lily Frances Moore - all 15-year-olds from Canterbury - died when a car they were passengers in failed to take a corner and crashed into trees on Southbridge-Sedgemere Rd, near Leeston, in the early hours of December 26 last year.
The unlicensed 14-year-old driver, who was badly hurt in the crash and cannot be named for legal reasons, earlier pleaded guilty to three charges of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing injury at the Youth Court in Christchurch.
A fifth person in the car - the only one wearing a seatbelt - managed to flag down a passing motorist who phoned emergency services.
The boy - now aged 15 - was sentenced today.
The court heard how the five friends all planned on Christmas Day to sneak out that night and take Drost's mum's car driving.
Sammy and the boy pushed the Nissan Tiida out of the driveway to avoid being detected and drove off to pick up the other three friends.
By 12.30am on Boxing Day, they had collected the other passengers who had also snuck out of their family homes.They went to a country camping ground in the Selwyn district outside Christchurch where there was an altercation with two older men.
It was described as a "frightening experience", the court heard today, and they sped off in the car, believing that someone - possibly the men - were following them. It's understood that the car had been travelling at 111km/h on Harts Rd when it hit a grassy mound, which launched the car across Southbridge-Sedgemere Rd into a macrocarpa hedge.
Only the driver and another boy survived. They were the only ones wearing seatbelts.
The boy's family were in court today, along with members of the victims' families.
Sammy's mother read out a victim impact statement where she said she had no anger for the young driver.
The loss of her lovely, funny and happy boy goes beyond comprehension some days, she said. She was confident he'd grow up and make her proud.
The grieving mother doubts her pain will ever go away, but she carries on, in part, because of the driver who she has since got to know well.
They communicate daily and Drost says he is a "kind boy with a good heart" who has had to "grow up fast under a huge burden of guilt".
She says he has never tried to shift blame and she holds no anger towards him.
"It's just sad," she said.
The other survivor of the crash also doesn't feel anger, only sadness. He told the court that he is "disappointed in all of us for making such a stupid decision".
Being teenagers, they just didn't think of the consequences of their actions, he said. "I'd do anything for those three wonderful people to be here today."
He hoped others would learn from their mistakes.
Judge Jane McMeeken sentenced the young driver to what was described as an informal social worker's plan. He has to pay $1000 to the rescue helicopter trust, $1000 to St John, be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months once he turns 16, and to "engage in therapeutic intervention".
The judge gave the boy 12 months to make at least 10 presentations to schools, youth groups, or small youth community groups about the crash, what led to it, and its aftermath.
She said it would not be easy for him, but added: "If anything good comes out of this tragedy, it'll be the prevention of something similar occurring".
"You can honour Sam, Lily, and Cole by doing this. And also by going on to live a good and productive life."
t wasn't the first time that the driver and Sammy had snuck out without authority in Sammy's mum's car.
Judge McMeeken said it was a "disaster waiting to happen".
Like many youngsters growing up in rural New Zealand, the driver had learned to drive at a young age, the judge said.
It appeared that all of his passengers seemed comfortable that a 14-year old would drive them.
They were all happy to sneak out and drive around on country roads, Judge McMeeken said, and there seemed to be "a culture of it being okay for young people to drive" despite lacking the foresight and wisdom that comes with age and life experience.
But there are laws, rules, and regulations about driving licences for "very, very good reasons", she said.