Driver gets jail and loses friends
Four people left for dead by a six-time drink-driver who crashed his car are glad he has been locked up and say they will never speak to their former mate again.
Michael John McDowall, 39, was jailed for three years last week after pleading guilty to five counts of drink-driving causing injury and one of drink-driving.
On May 24 this year, after a day of drinking, McDowall gave a workmate and three of his friends a ride.
He was speeding down a residential street in West Auckland at 80kmh and tried to overtake a car in front while negotiating a bend.
"The vehicle's occupants were begging him to slow down," a police summary of facts said.
But McDowall veered onto the wrong side of the road and slammed head on into a car driven by 35-year-old Tui Tongalea.
The two vehicles were "extensively damaged". Instead of checking the condition of his friends and calling for help, McDowall bolted, leaving his mates in the twisted metal wreckage.
A member of the public, who saw him leave the scene, collared him and took him back to the crash site.
But he did not hang around.
While the passengers were being treated by emergency services and Tongalea was being cut out of the car by firefighters, McDowall bolted again.
One firefighter saw his exit and grabbed him before he went far.
According to the court file: "The defendant made no attempt to assist the injured parties or ascertain if there were any injuries suffered by the occupants of his vehicle or Tui Tongalea."
He later explained to police he was leaving the scene to phone his parents and claimed the incident had been caused by the car in front, which had forced him to overtake.
Just seven weeks earlier, McDowall had been caught drink-driving for the fifth time after police saw him speeding and weaving erratically on the Northwestern Motorway.
He was on bail for that drink-drive incident at the time of the May accident.
Julian Sanders, a builder who worked with McDowall, was sitting in the front passenger seat and shattered his pelvis in the crash.
The 25-year-old was in hospital for six weeks and now has a metal plate in his left hip.
Sanders said he and the other passengers that night - Crystal Meredith, Anika Govorko and Steven Donovan - had not spoken to McDowall since the smash and never will.
"I reckon it's over," he said. "He's hated all round."
Judge Stephen O'Driscoll's decision to jail McDowall was backed by Sanders, who said his life had been "changed forever" by his former friend's bad decisions.
"I don't think he's ever going to learn ... he's nearly 40 and look at the amount of DICs he's had," Sanders said.
The range of injuries to the victims - including broken bones, lacerations and a punctured lung - was so extensive that it took Judge O'Driscoll minutes to read the list during sentencing.
All of those injured declined an offer of a restorative justice session with McDowall.
Through her victim-impact statement, Govorko said since the crash she was haunted by the events to the point where she was unable to be a passenger in a car.
Judge O'Driscoll disqualified McDowall from driving indefinitely.
- © Fairfax NZ News