Teen was drinking, speeding, court told

Last updated 05:00 11/09/2013

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A Southland teenager accused of manslaughter was driving more than 70kmh above the speed limit and was over the legal alcohol limit when he crashed his car in Winton and his front-seat passenger died, a jury in the High Court at Invercargill has been told.

Strathan Yannis Douglas Hurst, of South Hillend, pleaded not guilty at the start of his trial yesterday to a charge of manslaughter and an alternative charge of reckless driving causing death.

Crown prosecutor Riki Donnelly, in his opening address, said Hurst, then aged 17, was driving a Ford Falcon around the streets of Winton on November 6, 2011. The other teenager in the car was front-seat passenger Stevie-Owen Kenneally, 18.

Travelling at between 121kmh and 124kmh in a 50kmh zone in Park St at 5.20am, Hurst tried to negotiate a moderate left-hand corner and his car slid across the centre line and hit the kerb before going on to hit two fences, a steel pole and a building before the car landed on its roof, Mr Donnelly said.

He said Hurst was helped from the driver's side of the car and taken to Southland Hospital but Mr Kenneally died at the scene from severe brain injuries.

Neither man was wearing a seatbelt and later tests showed Hurst's alcohol level would have been between 114 and 142mg per 100ml of blood at the time of the crash.

The legal alcohol limit is 80mg.

The key issue in the trial was whether Hurst was driving the car at the time of the crash, Mr Donnelly said. "The police opinion is that Hurst was the driver."

Hurst sent a text message 30 minutes before the crash, saying he was "just about to drive", Mr Donnelly said.

Winton fire brigade station officer David Laverty, a Crown witness, said that when he arrived at the crash scene he saw a person [Mr Kenneally] lying face-down in the passenger side of the car with his left arm out the window. He took a pulse and there was none.

Hurst was also still in the car, "slightly off-centre on the driver's side", Mr Laverty said.

He woke up and crawled out of the back window with the help of an ambulance officer.

Defence lawyer John Westgate, in his opening address, said the Crown case fell well short of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Hurst was driving the car at the time of the crash.

Mr Westgate said the "nub of the case" was what would have happened to both men, who were not wearing seatbelts, when the incident unfolded.

"The defence says you [the jury] cannot be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that that young man [Hurst] was the driver of the car and it's as simple as that."

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There were no witnesses to the crash, he said.

The trial, being presided over by Justice Fogarty, is expected to conclude tomorrow.

- The Southland Times

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