Racer 'equally responsible for crash'

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 11:55 11/08/2014
Matthew O'Sullivan
JOHN COWPLAND/Fairfax NZ
IN COURT: Matthew O'Sullivan.

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A young man who raced his Ford against a Holden is "equally responsible" for the fatal crash of the other car, a court has been told.

Maree Schafer, 18, was killed when the speeding Holden Commodore lost control and crashed into a tree on February 19 last year.

Matthew O'Sullivan, 21, is defending two charges of racing causing death and racing causing injury because his car managed to stop safely following the crash.

But Crown Prosecutor Clayton Walker told the Napier District Court today that O'Sullivan was equally responsible for the fatal crash because the crash was a consequence of the race. O'Sullivan encouraged the other driver, Brandan Lawrence, to race him in his new Ford Falcon to see which car was faster, Walker said.

"He is guilty and responsible for the consequences of the crash."

Walker said there were four young men responsible for the crash that night - the drivers O'Sullivan and Lawrence, 19 at the time, passenger Jesse Ellmers, 18, who encouraged the race and Adam O'Sullivan who started the race with the toot of his horn and followed the racing cars in his Nissan Skyline.

The three other young men had pleaded guilty to racing causing death and racing causing injury.

"This defendant is in the same position as them, he is no different," Walker said.

Lawyer Scott Jefferson said O'Sullivan accepted he willingly took part in the race but did not accept responsibility for the crash as it happened after the race had finished.

"The other driver, Lawrence, has indulged in an unnecessary exhibition of speed and carried on," Jefferson said.

The night of the crash, Schafer began a countdown before the vehicles took off about 11.30pm on the southern outskirts of Napier. O'Sullivan's brother Adam sounded his horn to start the race, the court was told.

Lawrence was driving on the incorrect side of the road and slightly behind O'Sullivan's Ford.

Adam O'Sullivan drove behind the racing vehicles, which allegedly reached a speed of about 180kmh.

As the two racing cars approached the Meeanee Rd intersection, the Ford slowed but Lawrence was unaware he was approaching the intersection, saw an opportunity to pass and accelerated.

The Holden Commodore went straight through the stop-sign- controlled intersection at a speed of around 180kmh, Walker said.

Lawrence tried to turn off into nearby Sandy Rd, but lost control, with the car sliding sideways for 120 metres before slamming, driver's side first, into a large tree.

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Schafer suffered serious head injuries and died at the scene. The other passenger's neck and collar bone were fractured and he suffered a bruised lung.

The trial is set down for two days.

- The Dominion Post

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