It was January 16 and foreign airlines employee Gaurav Sharma, 30, was on a layover in New Zealand.

He and three of his colleagues had decided to take a day trip to Rotorua and had hired a car and planned to be back in Auckland for their flight the next day.

Sharma had big plans for the next month and was due to marry his fiance in February.

But what happened next changed life for Sharma and three colleagues.

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The Qatar Airlines employees were travelling along State Highway 5 about 20km from Rotorua, near Oturoa Rd, when Sharma made a critical mistake.

Gaurav Sharma was ordered to pay emotional harm reparation. Photo / Stephen Parker
Gaurav Sharma was ordered to pay emotional harm reparation. Photo / Stephen Parker

The cabin attendant had missed the turn-off they wanted to take so had pulled to the left and without looking properly, attempted to do a U-turn, instead driving directly into the path of an oncoming truck and trailer.

The crash that followed left two people, including Sharma, critically injured and the other two passengers seriously and moderately injured. Police, fire and ambulance services were called, as well as the rescue helicopter.

Today the Indian-national was sentenced in the Rotorua District Court by Judge Philip Cooper on three charges of careless driving causing injury.

He was ordered to pay $10,000 emotional harm reparation to his most seriously injured colleague and disqualified from holding a driver's licence for a year.

The scene of the crash on January 16. Photo / File
The scene of the crash on January 16. Photo / File

"This wasn't a case of deliberate bad driving," Cooper said.

"It was not a case of deliberate risk-taking, it was a case of a relatively momentary lapse of judgment . . . but that momentary lapse has had catastrophic consequences not just for you."

Sharma suffered 21 injuries in the crash and spent a "considerable period" in hospital. His colleague was in the hospital for 45 days and is now receiving further care in a specialist facility.

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Her present status is described as "minimally conscious".

Judge Cooper said the sentencing exercise was a conundrum. Sharma had scraped together $1000 cash to offer towards reparation and the judge said that was "a drop in the ocean compared the harm that's been suffered".

"On one hand the complainant has suffered very serious injuries, the defendant himself has suffered as well."

Gaurav Sharma was ordered to pay emotional harm reparation. Photo / Stephen Parker
Gaurav Sharma was ordered to pay emotional harm reparation. Photo / Stephen Parker

Any savings Sharma had, including those to be used for the wedding, had been used in the months following the crash, he had no assets and lived with his parents in India.

The judge said a community-based sentence would usually be imposed but he wanted Sharma to return home.

"To impose a community-based would require you to remain in NZ for a further period of time without support and income that at the end of the day is not practical."

Judge Cooper said Sharma was being supported by a friend whose generosity had been remarkable.

Sharma was supported by that friend in court today. She was one of the first to arrive on the scene and in the days after the crash she told the Rotorua Daily Post the rental car was "half the size it should have been" when she arrived on the scene.

She told of having to apply pressure to a gash on the driver, Sharma's, head and holding his suspected broken jaw so he could breathe.

The scene of the crash on January 16. Photo / File
The scene of the crash on January 16. Photo / File

"I was holding him together," she said at the time.

She declined to comment following the sentencing.

Judge Cooper ordered Sharma to pay $10,000 reparation with $1000 to be paid immediately. The remaining balance would be paid when Sharma was able to as he was unlikely to return to work for 12 months given his injuries.

"The $10,000 is for the most seriously injured. I don't impose reparation for the other two, not because it's not warranted, but because it's not readily available."

Judge Cooper told Sharma said he had a moral and legal obligation to pay the reparation.