Hubbard crash driver guilty
A Mosgiel man has been found guilty of causing the death of Timaru financier Allan Hubbard and injuring Hubbard's wife, Jean, in a car crash in North Otago about two years ago.
Andrew John Earl was convicted on charges of causing death and injury by careless driving in a reserved decision given by Judge Gary MacAskill in Christchurch today after an Oamaru District Court sitting in early June.
Earl had been excused from attending the release of the reserved decision today. It was not read in court, but the case was remanded to August 9 for a sentencing date and venue to be set.
The maximum penalty for careless driving causing death or injury is three months jail, fine of up to $4500, and a minimum six months disqualification.
Judge MacAskill did not ask for a pre-sentence report on Earl, 42, but he has called for a reparation report on Earl's ability to pay emotional-harm reparations to Jean Hubbard.
She issued a statement saying she ''bears no ill-will towards Mr Earl or his family'' and asking for privacy.
The death and injury occurred at Hilderthorpe on September 2, 2011, in a head-on collision between the white Honda Jazz that Jean Hubbard was driving and a red Holden Rodeo utility and trailer that Earl was driving.
Earl denied both charges at the two-day hearing, which was held at the Timaru courthouse.
Judge MacAskill said the site of the crash on State Highway 1, about 8 kilometres north of Oamaru. was straight and level.
The Hubbards were driving south, and Judge MacAskill said the impact occurred in the southbound lane.
The police had concluded that Earl's vehicle had veered to the right across the southbound lane and into the path of the Honda.
The defence said that although the Honda was in the southbound lane at the moment of impact, it had almost wholly crossed the centre line into the northbound late moments before the crash.
It said that Earl had tried to avoid a head-on collision by crossing into the other lane.
Jean Hubbard had no memory of the events before the crash or of the crash.
She denied a defence allegation that she was distracted by eating an icecream. She and her husband had earlier stopped to eat icecreams.
The defence had referred to earlier driving incidents involving Jean Hubbard, but Judge MacAskill said today: "Mrs Hubbard impressed me as a woman of intelligence and of sharp wits, unblunted by her years."
He could not safely conclude that she had been eating an icecream at the time of the crash.
Another driver gave evidence of erratic driving by Earl before the crash.
He saw him drive wide on a bend and cross the centre line.
The witness told of keeping an eye on Earl in his rear-vision mirror.
Immediately before the crash, he saw Earl's vehicle veer across the road into the path of the Honda, which braked before the crash.
Judge MacAskill said he saw the driver as a reliable witness.
Another witness who saw the aftermath of the crash was honest and sincere but had been shocked by the crash and had difficulty reconciling the image in his mind of the Honda straddling the centre line with what he had since learnt about the position of the impact.
Judge MacAskill said the accounts were in conflict, but he accepted the first witness's evidence and rejected the second.
Earl told police he had no recollection of the events immediately before the crash, but recalled the motion of the vehicle straight after the impact.
A doctor's evidence was that an explanation, other than a head injury, for Earl having pre-incident amnesia would be falling asleep before the crash.
Judge MacAskill said: "I conclude that the defendant's utility vehicle veered across the roadway into the southbound lane and into the path of the Hubbards' Honda because he was drowsy or had fallen asleep and was no longer consciously directing the course of the vehicle."
He said another witness's evidence showed that Earl had become drowsy before the crash, and it had affected his driving.
He ought to have stopped driving until he was sufficiently alert. "His failure to do so was careless."
The judge found Earl guilty on both charges.