'We didn't go out to cause trouble, only to have fun' - sole surviving passenger of triple-fatal Canterbury crash video

GEORGE HEARD/Stuff.co.nz

The then 14-year-old driver of a car that crashed near Leeston in Canterbury on Boxing Day 2016, killing three of his friends, has been sentenced in Youth Court.

The sole surviving passenger of a crash that killed three of his friends says he is disappointed with himself and his mates for making "such a stupid decision".

Cole Christensen-Hull, Sam Drost and Lily Moore, all aged 15, were killed when the car they were passengers in failed to take a corner and crashed into a row of trees near Southbridge overnight on Boxing Day 2016. The fourth passenger, whose name is suppressed, received broken bones.

The driver, who is now aged 15, was sentenced in the Christchurch Youth Court on Tuesday. He will stay on bail while he makes the presentations about "the crash, what led to it, and its aftermath" to schools and youth groups, instead of 200 hours of community work.

The car was travelling at an estimated 111 kilometres an hour when it left the road.
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

The car was travelling at an estimated 111 kilometres an hour when it left the road.

The fourth passenger told the court he had nightmares about the crash most nights.

"I wake up thinking about Cole, Lily and Sam and I go to sleep thinking about all three of them," he said, reading his victim-impact statement.

"Without [my best friend] Cole here I just feel empty and lost.  All I want is for my best friend to come home and for all this to be a bad dream.

Leeston crash victims Sam Drost, Lily Moore and Cole Christensen-Hull

Leeston crash victims Sam Drost, Lily Moore and Cole Christensen-Hull

"I would do anything for those three wonderful people to be with us today."

He said he was not angry towards anyone else in the car, "just disappointed in all of us who made such a stupid decision".

"Being teenagers we didn't think of the consequences. We didn't go out to cause trouble, only to have fun."

Friends and family leave Harewood Crematorium after Sam Drost's funeral.
FAIRFAX NZ

Friends and family leave Harewood Crematorium after Sam Drost's funeral.

A HEARTBROKEN MOTHER

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Sam's mother, Tracey Drost, said the driver supported her and contacted her daily, sending her photos of Sam she may not have seen. She was lonely without her son and her heart was broken.

"It is sad that three lives were lost. It is sad that (the driver) has lost his friends. It's just sad," she told the court in her victim-impact statement.

Tributes placed at the site where three teenagers died in a car crash near Leeston.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Tributes placed at the site where three teenagers died in a car crash near Leeston.

According to the summary of facts, the driver told police he was driving about 111 kilometres an hour before the crash and did not see the intersection, which lay just beyond the bend where the car crashed.

The group had been driving around the area late at night, including a visit to a campsite beside Lake Ellesmere-Te Waihora. The unlicensed driver and Sam had taken Tracey Drost's car without her knowledge.  

"He (the driver) believed that he was being followed by the people who they had an altercation with at the [Timber Yard Point] Lakeside [Domain] Campsite," the summary said.

The car was being driven south on Harts Rd when it failed to take a corner just before the junction with Southbridge ...
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

The car was being driven south on Harts Rd when it failed to take a corner just before the junction with Southbridge Sedgemere Rd.

Speaking the day before the sentencing, Constable Shaun McWhirter confirmed officers had warned a man for an assault in relation to a "minor altercation" at the campsite, but said there was no evidence to suggest the group were being chased.

Soon after the crash, Stuff spoke to the two campers who confronted the group. One of the men denied there was any assault.

"We can absolutely 100 per cent tell you there was nobody hit, we didn't assault anyone."

'HE CRASHED BECAUSE THEY WERE FRIGHTENED'

Outside court on Tuesday, Drost's aunty said the family felt the crash was "completely the result of the children being harassed, being assaulted and frightened".

"The accident would not have happened had they not been interfered with by those adults at the lake, that is for sure."

During sentencing, Christchurch Youth Court Judge Jane McMeeken said: "If anything good comes from this tragedy, it will be the prevention of something similar occurring."

Road-safety advertising campaigns did not "have the impact of a young man like you speaking to your peers", she told the driver.

The youth had earlier admitted three charges of dangerous driving causing death, as well as dangerous driving causing injury to the fourth passenger.

The police wanted a more serious penalty, as a deterrent to other inexperienced youngsters who might think about driving. Prosecutors were not sure the driver would have the ability to carry out the road-safety presentations as required.

THAT FATAL NIGHT

The court was told Drost had wanted the 14-year-old to drive that night because he had learnt to drive in rural New Zealand at a very young age.

On Christmas Eve the group arranged to sneak out of their homes the following night and drive around.

Shortly after midnight on December 26, the driver snuck out of his Prebbleton home and walked to Sam's home, where the pair pushed Tracey Drost's Nissan Tiida from the garage onto the road so their departure would not be detected.

Drost and the driver, who was just 14-years-old at the time, started the car with the keys that were left inside. They then drove to another house in Prebbleton to pick up Moore.

The trio then went to the Southbridge Hotel, where they had arranged to collect Cole and the fourth passenger. The group then went to the lakeside campsite at the end of Timber Yard Rd.

The summary of facts said the driver "drove quickly" around the campsite, which triggered an altercation between the group and two adult campers.

Then, about 1.50am, the group left the campsite and drove along Timber Yard Rd, which turns onto Lower Lake Rd.

The driver continued straight onto Harts Rd for about 3km. He was travelling about 111kmh as he came to a right-hand bend just before the T-intersection with Southbridge Sedgemere Rd.

He lost control of the car and hit the kerb on the opposite side of the road. The vehicle went up a grass bank and flipped as it flew over the intersection.

It stopped when it hit a large hedge on the side of the road, ending up on its roof.

DRIVER APPRECIATES 'GRAVITY AND TRAGEDY'

Judge McMeeken said the driver had never been in trouble. He had always acknowledged responsibility and immediately admitted the offending.

His appreciation of the "gravity and tragedy" had been obvious at his court appearances. He had attended two of the funerals.

"It is hard to find words to describe the extent of the tragedy that the court has to deal with today," the judge said.

She sentenced the youth to the terms of an informal social worker's plan that had been recommended.

The driver would remain on bail under the terms of the plan, rather than imposing supervision, which could last for only six months.

His progress would be judicially monitored and she would see him again in October.

He had to live at his family home, where he would be subject to a curfew on Friday and Saturday nights, unless he was out with his parents or an approved adult aged at least 20.

He must attend school with no unexplained absences and was not to drive a vehicle. When he turns 16 next year, he will be immediately disqualified from driving for at least a year. He will also receive therapeutic intervention.

The driver must also make at least 10 presentations to schools and youth groups about the accident and its consequences, in consultation with the social worker, over the next year.

"It is important that these things are done well, rather than rushed," Judge McMeeken said.

She said she hoped he would live a life that would honour the memory of his friends who had been killed.

 - Stuff

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