Drunk driver who crashed injuring two avoids jail
At the time, Gavin Obern must have believed it was a good idea to hit the road from Tauranga to Waikato after first getting boozed at a house in Otumoetai.
It proved to be a very bad idea: He did not get far out of the city before crashing at a speed so great the Holden utility flew through the air before hitting the ground and badly injuring his two passengers.
The smash at 9.14pm on May 17 last year also resulted in two charges of causing injury by driving with excess blood alcohol, for which Gavin Douglas Obern, 46, was sentenced to 12 months home detention when he appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Friday.
Gavin Obern had made it through Tauriko on State Highway 29 and had just gone past the intersection with Gargan Rd when he lost control on this stretch of road - with disastrous consequences. Photo: Google.
The circumstances of the disastrous and premature end to their journey westward were laid bare in the police summary of facts for the case against Obern.
He was evidently in some haste to get out of Tauranga. He had just driven through the settlement of Tauriko on the outskirts of the city on State Highway 29 when he came to an area of road works where a temporary 30kmh speed limit was in place.
The car ahead of him had slowed to the temporary limit, but Obern didn't.
As he overtook that car, he began to lose control.
He crossed the yellow centre lines, then swerved left, then right, before leaving the road completely and becoming airborne.
The Holden travelled 20 to 30 metres horizontally, before dropping about 10 metres to the paddock below. After it landed it rolled several times.
Gavin Obern leaves the Hamilton District Court following sentencing on two counts of causing injury by driving with an excess amount of alcohol in his blood. Photo: Tom Lee/Stuff
Obern and his two passengers had been sitting three abreast in the vehicle. They did not fare well.
The man on the left side of the vehicle suffered numerous injuries including a fractured cheek, a chipped elbow, an unspecified injury to his eye and a broken back.
This latter injury required the insertion of surgical screws as part of his treatment in hospital. He also suffered a blood clot near his spine and has had to endure a lengthy period of rehabilitation.
The other passenger - who the summary notes had been sitting directly over the handbrake lever - suffered a collapsed lung, extensive bruising and concussion.
While he was being treated, a sample of Obern's blood was taken. It returned a reading of 119 milligrams of alcohol per 100 litres of blood, more than twice the legal limit of 50 milligrams.
His explanation to the police was no explanation at all:
"I honestly can't remember mate," he said. "If I could, I would tell you. I just can't remember. But I hear what you're saying about the injuries and what they've said, so I must have been driving."
Obern should have known better. At the time of the crash he was before the courts on another drink driving-related charge, in the form of refusing to permit a specimen of blood to be taken.
He ended up being sentenced to supervision on that charge. But for an incident such as this, with such severe consequences, prison was a distinct possibility.
Police prosecutors sought a start point of two and a half years in prison. Obern's counsel Glen Prentice asked for an 18-month start point.
Judge Charles Blackie took three years in jail as his start point. Obern's expressions of remorse knocked three months off that time. Then the judge applied a 25 per cent discount for his guilty pleas.
Rounding down the prison term to 24 months brought it to the threshold where home detention could be considered. The judge considered it, and sentenced Obern to the maximum allowable of 12 months.
"Invariably, people who drink and drive are not able to control the vehicle they are driving," Judge Blackie said.
"You were already before the court awaiting sentence on a charge of refusing to give blood. It would seem you have learned nothing."
The judge also disqualified Obern from driving for a year.