Fatal crash torments driver
Hogan Bolton said he would be haunted for the rest of his life after killing mother of two Carmen Rogers as he drove home from a New Plymouth bar.
He told the Taranaki Daily News yesterday he would forever regret getting in his car to drive home after spending an afternoon drinking at Frederic's. His home was just a five-minute walk from the downtown bar.
"I don't know why I hopped in my car," he said.
It was a decision that robbed two young girls of their loving mother and left a husband to bring his daughters up alone.
Bolton, 31, reluctantly agreed to speak to the Daily News as part of a restorative justice process.
He avoided a jail sentence for the charge of drink-driving causing death. Instead, the oil and gas process worker was sentenced last Friday to nine months' home detention.
Prior to sentencing he had paid $50,000 reparation to the family for the emotional harm he had caused, as agreed in the restorative justice process.
His breath alcohol level - at 1297mcg - was one of the highest seen in the courts. The legal level is 400mcg.
The apparent leniency of the sentence surprised many but Carmen's husband, Che, did not want Bolton to sit in jail at the taxpayers' expense. Instead, he wanted Bolton to embark on a programme to educate others about the consequences of drink-driving.
Bolton, driving his SUV with bullbars, hit Carmen Rogers in Brougham St on May 6 about 4.45pm and carried on unaware a mother of two lay dying.
Yesterday he said memories of what happened were hazy.
"I thought I had pulled over, " he said. "I've only got little flashpoints from the accident. That will probably be with me forever."
Police easily traced Bolton to his Carrington St home. When dropped back there after being charged, he collapsed in front of the heater, unable to sleep or move.
"I couldn't really function for a couple of days. For the first few days all I could do was sit on the floor in front of the heater.
"I didn't care what happened to me. As soon as the police had me I was just in shock that I could hurt someone like that. I was just gutted."
Bolton said he and a mate had a beer when they went out for lunch that day and on the way home they decided to stop off at Frederic's.
His recollection is patchy. He puts it down to a combination of booze and shock.
"I've just got little horrible bits that come back to me in dreams. That will probably stay with me forever."
He was desperate to know how Carmen Rogers' husband and their two girls, Nouveau, 15, and Teal, 10, were doing. He wanted to look at them in the eye and apologise.
"I expected to get yelled and screamed at. Sorry doesn't cut it but it was a way for them to have an idea what I am really like.
"I don't expect to be forgiven. The reason I wanted to go to restorative justice was my dealings with the police and court were not personal. I was just another animal coming through the system. For me, I was thinking about the Rogers family all day, every day."
Taranaki's Restorative Justice Trust facilitator Pamela Jensen said the 7 -hour conference between Bolton and the Rogers family was unique in several ways.
Bolton and Nouveau Rogers spoke to Spotswood College year 11-13 students as part an agreement the day before his sentencing.
Bolton spoke to them of his mistakes in doing what he did.
Nouveau gave a first-hand account of the crash and the effects of losing her mother.
"It took immense courage for Nouveau to do that," Jensen said.
The students sat in silence throughout. There were tears.
"You could have heard a pin drop," she said. The speeches were recorded for the educational documentary on drink-driving that was also part of the agreement.
Bolton told the Daily News he was amazed and impressed by Che Rogers' stance that he did not want a jail sentence and was upset Che had come in for flak online.
He was aware the decision for him not to be jailed had sparked widespread debate.
Bolton said he still felt there needed to be a deterrent as part of the sentencing process.
"Some may see my sentencing may not live up to their expectations of a punishment and a deterrent. I accept that and I expect that and I think it's a good thing that everyone is discussing it," he said.
While police will not confirm it, the Taranaki Daily News believes Frederic's is facing investigation under liquor licensing legislation.
Taranaki Daily News