Teen in crash not guilty of manslaughter

Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013

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A Southland teenager has been found not guilty of the manslaughter of his mate in a high speed car crash.

Strathan Yannis Douglas Hurst, 19, was this week on trial in the Invercargill High Court charged with the manslaughter of  Stevie-Owen Kenneally, 18, on November 6, 2011.

The car Hurst and Mr Kenneally were travelling in was speeding between 121 and 124kmh in a residential Winton street when it crossed the centre line, before hitting the curb, fences, the concrete base of a pole and a building.

Mr Kenneally died at the scene.

During the trial, the jury members were told they had to decide who was driving the car at the time of the high-impact crash. Neither teen was wearing a seatbelt.

The jury, which retired to consider its verdict yesterday afternoon, returned a not guilty verdict at 5pm.

During yesterday's evidence, defence witness Hamish Piercy, a motor vehicle crash consultant and former police officer, said being in the car at the time of the crash would have been ''akin to ricocheting around a high-speed concrete mixer''.

These forces meant it would be ''highly unreliable'' trying to track who was sitting where in the car during the crash, he said.

Crown prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas, in her closing address yesterday, told the jury the crown believed the forces present in the vehicle during the crash were enough to move the occupants, but not enough to cause them to swap sides.

After the crash, Hurst had been found on the driver's side of the car, while Mr Kenneally was on the passenger's side, she said.

Injuries on the deceased's left-hand side were also ''entirely consistent'' with him being on the passenger's side of the car, she said.

However, defence lawyer John Westgate argued nobody could know if Mr Kenneally was facing straight on when the injuries were sustained.

Mr Kenneally's blood had been found on the driver's side of the car, while Hurst's blood was absent from that area, he said.

The defence believed the forces present in the car during the crash were significant enough to potentially cause the occupants to swap positions, so it was impossible to infer who was driving from where the occupants were found after the crash, he said.

Mr Westgate then asked the jury how they could be sure who was driving when expert witnesses called throughout the trial could not be sure.

''We can't turn the clock back. There's no video. We don't know.''

The trial, presided over by Justice Fogarty, began on Monday.

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