Matamata truck driver sentenced for causing young mum's death

Belinda Feek,
Publish Date
Friday, 24 May 2019, 4:32PM
Johnathan Coombe, of Waharoa, leaves the Hamilton District Court after an earlier appearance. (Photo / File)
Johnathan Coombe, of Waharoa, leaves the Hamilton District Court after an earlier appearance. (Photo / File)

Ambah Tuhoro can't shake the horror of the moment she woke to see her bloodied, twisted and dead sister stuck in the driver's seat of her car on State Highway 3.

It's a sight she spoke about in her victim impact statement in the Hamilton District Court this afternoon.

For a reason no one will ever know, Johnathan Daniel Coombe's truck veered across the centre line on a bend on State Highway 3 at Mahoenui, north of Awakino, on February 20.

Coming the other way, heading south, was Darrelee Beckett Tuhoro driving her sister, Ambah, 20, and her two young children, aged 7 months and 2 years.

He had just missed one vehicle, as he got near the centre line, but it was Tuhoro's vehicle he collided with.

With no time for either vehicle to brake, the impact was severe Darrelee was killed on impact and had to be cut free from the car.

Her sister, a front seat passenger, continues to suffer from head injuries, including memory loss, while her 2-year-old suffered a broken leg and cuts to his face.

Her 7-month-old was uninjured.

He had since told police he had no memory of the crash.

Coombe earlier pleaded guilty to charges of careless driving causing death and two charges of careless driving causing injury.

Appearing before Community Magistrate Ngaire Marcelle in the Hamilton District Court in an emotional sentencing this afternoon, Coombe avoided jail and accepted there was no intent in causing the crash.

Given Coombe couldn't recall what happened, the only available inference police could draw was that he fell asleep or was distracted for an ongoing period of time.

She noted he did have a previous conviction for careless driving after also driving slow due to tiredness.

His lawyer Seung Youn said he was remorseful and was prepared to use his savings to pay any emotional harm.

Tuhoro's grandfather, John Tuhoro, and many other family members also drove up from Taranaki for the sentencing, packing out the public gallery.

Darrelle's sister Ambah, together with their mother, father, sister and Darrelle's partner, Ben all read their victim impact statements to the court.

Choking back tears, they described a loving mother who was not only intelligent but funny, who would now not be able to fulfill her dream of bringing up a big family, with lots more children.

Coombe was convicted and sentenced to 180 hours of community work, six months supervision and $7000 emotional harm.

He was also disqualified from driving for 15 months.

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