Hubbard crash driver fined, disqualified
A Mosgiel man who caused the death of Timaru financier Allan Hubbard and injured Hubbard's wife, Jean, in a car crash has been disqualified from driving for a year and fined.
Andrew John Earl, 42, was convicted on charges of causing death and injury by careless driving in a reserved decision given by Judge Gary MacAskill in Christchurch in August after an Oamaru District Court sitting in early June.
The judge concluded that Earl was either drowsy or asleep at the wheel.
Earl was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined $2500 in the Christchurch District Court this afternoon.
Lawyer John Westgate said Earl was "so sorry for what has occurred".
He did not remember falling asleep, but had to accept the court's findings that he had.
Witnesses had recalled seeing Earl cross the centre line a couple of times immediately before the crash.
"He has no memory of that," Westgate said.
Earl was in no hurry that day and had a good sleep the night before. He had stopped for lunch shortly before the crash, Westgate said.
Judge MacAskill said it was clear that Earl had "great difficulty accepting responsibility for the crash". Drivers lacking in concentration posed a significant risk on the road.
"The consequences as in this case can be tragic," he said.
The sentence was not designed to mirror the "horrific consequences" of the crash.
Jean Hubbard has said she "bears no ill-will towards Mr Earl or his family", and asked for privacy.
The death and injury occurred at Hilderthorpe, near Oamaru, on September 2, 2011, in a head-on collision between the Honda Jazz that Jean Hubbard was driving and a Holden Rodeo utility and trailer that Earl was driving.
Earl denied both charges.
In his reserved decision, 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 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 moments before the crash. Earl had tried to avoid a head-on collision by crossing into the other lane.
Jean Hubbard had no memory of the crash or events before it.
She denied a defence allegation that she was distracted by eating an icecream.
The defence had referred to earlier driving incidents involving Jean Hubbard, but Judge MacAskill said: "Mrs Hubbard impressed me as a woman of intelligence and of sharp wits, unblunted by her years."
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, and described 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.
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."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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