Racer 'not responsible' for deadly crash

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 16:45 11/08/2014
Matthew O'Sullivan
JOHN COWPLAND/Fairfax NZ
IN COURT: Matthew O'Sullivan.

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A game of paper, scissors, rock sealed the fate of a young woman killed when a car spun out of control.

Maree Schafer, 18, lost the game and minutes later lost her life.

Schafer and another young man had played paper, scissors, rock to see who would sit in the front seat while a Holden raced a Ford, a court heard today.

She hopped in the backseat and was killed when the speeding Holden Commodore lost control and crashed into a tree on February 19 last year.

Matthew O'Sullivan, 21, was racing the Holden in his new Ford Falcon that night.

Although he was not the driver of the car that crashed, he has been charged with racing causing death and racing causing injury.

He is defending the charges in the Napier District Court this week.

His lawyer, Scott Jefferson, said he was not responsible for the crash because the other car accelerated off once the race had finished.

The night of the crash, O'Sullivan's brother Adam sounded his horn to start the race about 11.30pm on the outskirts of Napier.

Brandan Lawrence drove his Holden on the wrong side of Awatoto Rd and slightly behind O'Sullivan's Ford, the court heard.

In a separate car, 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.

"I knew the intersection was coming up but I didn't know it was that close,'' he said in evidence today.

He went straight through the intersection controlled by a stop sign.

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.

''I woke up and there was a tree next to me,'' he said.

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.

Prosecutor Clayton Walker said there were four young men responsible for the crash that night - drivers O'Sullivan and Lawrence, both 19 at the time, passenger Jesse Ellmers, who encouraged the race and Adam O'Sullivan who started the race.

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

Walker said O'Sullivan was ''no different''.

He encouraged Lawrence to race him to see which car was faster. The crash was a consequence of the race, so O'Sullivan was ''equally responsible'', Walker said.

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Ellmers, now 19, was Schafer's boyfriend at the time and said the pair went in different cars as Schafer liked Holden and Ellmers preferred Ford.

Ellmers said O'Sullivan started braking before the intersection and thought the race was over. He admitted in court, he thought Lawrence was crazy when he accelerated past the Ford.

The trial is set down for two days.

- The Dominion Post

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