- Driver jailed for two years and six months
- Family members of 5 teens killed in horror crash near Timaru in August filled courtroom for sentencing of driver Tyreese Fleming on Wednesday
- Then 19-years-old, Fleming admitted five charges of dangerous driving causing death in April
- The impact of the crash split the overloaded car in half, killing all passengers instantly
- Fleming had been drinking alcohol before the crash and obtained restricted licence just three days earlier
- 15-year-old Andrew Goodger was travelling in the boot of the car at the time of the crash
The families of five teenagers killed in a horror crash near Timaru last year were pleased to see the driver jailed, but say two-and-a-half years is not long enough.
Fifteen victim impact statements were read to the packed court during 20-year-old Tyreese Fleming’s sentencing on Wednesday – including those of six parents, two siblings and three grandparents of the five who lost their lives.
Richard Goodger, the father of Andrew Goodger, spoke of the huge emotional toll the death of his son had taken.
“It was sheer hell the night my son never came home. I was woken approximately 11.50pm by Andrew’s girlfriend who rang and told me Andrew had been killed in a car crash.
“Since Andrew was killed I am living in absolute hell,” he said.
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Overcome with emotion – he had to be helped from the court as his daughter Jorja finished reading his statement.
Addressing the court over the death of her brother, Jorja Goodger said the crash took her “favourite person in the world”.
Family members of the five Timaru teenagers killed in a crash in August 2021, and the driver, arrive in the High Court at Timaru on Wednesday morning.
“Every day has been a struggle. He was my only sibling, you broke the bond. Everything reminds me of my brother. My brother was my everything. It left an empty piece of my heart.
“It hurts to know all this was because of your stupid, stupid mistake … I treasure every second I had with my brother. All I have is memories.
She told Fleming his actions that night had caused so much pain.
“I had to identify my brother that night. I couldn’t speak or eat for a few days.”
Andrea Goodger said her son was born with a hole in his heart and underwent four operations to repair it. She said he was a real fighter and a fun-loving boy who liked to surf and skateboard.
She told Fleming her strong Christian faith would help her find forgiveness one day, but she did not know when that would be.
“Tyreese you have caused five boys’ deaths and I believe you should be accountable for your actions.”
Stephen Drummond, the father of Javarney Drummond, said his life had changed due to the actions of Fleming.
“Life sucks … a huge piece of my family missing, because of the stupidity of a drunk driver. I’m going to live a life sentence without a kid. A drunk driver should not offer kids drinks and take them for a ride,” he said.
“I love you mum”, are the final words Carissa Hill remembers hearing as her son, 15-year-old Niko Hill, left to go to the skate park on the day of the crash.
“That is now just a memory. I went to sleep thinking he would be home.”
Hill was woken by a friend at 3am informing her of the crash and that her son would not be coming home.
“In that instant my world turned upside down. My heart shattered into a million pieces. At 35, my firstborn was dead, and I was having to plan his funeral.”
“The pain I feel is like no other pain … it sucks all the life out of you, weighing you down, unable to move, unable to breathe … like waves crashing over you. My life ended the day Niko died.”
Jess Hill said losing her nephew had “destroyed my heart, soul and being”.
A registered nurse at Timaru Hospital, days before the crash she had applied to work as an ED nurse which she had to withdraw in the wake of the tragedy as she said it was “too close to home”.
The death of the teens had created a ripple effect, it wasn’t just the five families affected, she said.
Addressing Fleming, she said “you played Russian roulette with five lives, you pulled the trigger and managed to get the empty one”.
Niko Hill’s grandmother, Rata Hill, said she learnt of the crash while at home and read a news article about it online.
She was shaken and upset by it and said she couldn’t sleep thinking of the families who had lost their boys, going to bed at 2.30am relieved her phone had not rung.
She said when she was awoken later by her phone, her daughter told her that Niko had passed away.
She didn’t need to ask, she knew how, she said.
She also spoke of the many hours she spends at Niko’s grave.
“I have an emptiness, I see him everywhere.
“The day I lost you Niko, I also lost me.”
Charntel Hunt-Roberts spoke of her son, Jack Wallace, as a loving and affectionate child and described her horror at receiving multiple missed calls from Jack’s father.
When she got hold of him he “howled down the phone”.
“I have never heard a person cry like that,” she said.
“I needed sedation to get through the first few months without him.
“I would go out in my car and scream and cry so my children and husband don’t have to see me in such a distressed state.
“There are days I desperately want to join him, but I couldn’t do that to my children or put my mother through the pain I feel at the loss of a child.”
She addressed Tyreese and said she hoped he came out of this a “better person”.
She urged him to live a good life, teaching people about the dangers of drinking and driving and honouring her son and the other boys, by “being the person that makes the change”.
Tyreese Stuart Fleming, was 19 at the time of the crash, driving on a three-day-old restricted licence, and had been drinking when the car he was driving slammed into a power pole at the intersection of Meadows and Seadown roads at a speed of 110-115kmh shortly before 7.30pm on August 7, 2021.
The impact split the car in half, killing all his passengers – Javarney Drummond, 15, Niko Hill, 15, Andrew Goodger, 15, Jack Wallace, 16, and Joseff McCarthy, 16 – instantly.
Fleming, who had initially faced five charges of manslaughter, pleaded guilty in the High Court at Timaru on April 5 to five charges of dangerous driving causing death which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
Fleming, who has been on bail since he was first charged in December 2021, appeared before Justice Osborne in the High Court at Timaru for sentencing on Wednesday.
Justice Osborne addressed the court and acknowledged the sentencing was a significant moment for all involved.
“I ask everyone to be respectful. This will be a hard process and I ask everyone to be respectful and observe the courtesies needed for this to occur.”
Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae told the court the Crown’s position was a sentence with a starting point between 5 and 6 years’ imprisonment, which would not allow for the consideration of home detention.
McRae said a combination of very poor decision-making led to the tragedy and the impact was apparent from the victim impact statements.
Various factors contributed to the culpability of the defendant’s actions, including that he was a very inexperienced driver, held a restricted licence and breached that by driving with passengers and consuming alcohol, he said.
Lawyer Thomas Nation requested a starting point of four years’ imprisonment with discounts for early guilty plea, remorse and the fact Fleming had no prior convictions. He asked that the final sentence be two years’ imprisonment, which would translate to 12 months’ home detention with 400 hours’ community service.
“His remorse has been obvious from the outset. It was very obvious during the three restorative justice conferences, and it was during one of these conferences the idea of his participation in a road safety campaign arose.”
Nation read a statement from Fleming in which he apologised to “all the victims’ families and everyone in this community” and said he was so angry and ashamed at himself for what had happened.
Addressing the court following a short adjournment, Justice Osborne said the sentence he imposed would be one of imprisonment.
“I acknowledge the heightened tragedy of five young people and their zest for life.”
Justice Osborne said Fleming had no prior convictions but did not have a completely clean history with a couple of incidents which had been dealt with by way of verbal warning and another via police diversion.
Fleming, who was reported as being emotionally immature with a tendency towards impulsive behaviour, had ceased all alcohol use since the crash.
“You retain the benefit of a very caring and supportive family.”
Justice Osborne said restorative justice reports were generally very positive in nature.
Justice Osborne said he considered the most relevant aggravating factors as being that Fleming had caused multiple fatalities, driven a vehicle dangerously loaded, drunk a significant quantity of alcohol before driving, breached two conditions of his restricted licence and driven at excessive speed.
“The immense scale of loss in your driving must be recognised. The aggravating features place it towards the higher end when looking at other similar cases.”
“In the circumstances, I adopt a starting point of five and half years’ imprisonment.
Giving a 25% discount for early guilty plea, 15% for youth, 10% for remorse and 5% for good character, Justice Osborne sentenced Fleming to 2 years, 6 months’ imprisonment. He is not eligible for home detention.
Fleming was also disqualified from driving for five years.
Speaking outside court after the sentencing, Joseff McCarthy’s mother Linda Miller labelled the outcome as “b…….”.
Miller said she was angry Fleming had not addressed the court or the families himself.
“He should have stood up and taken responsibility for it. Then the parents would have at least had some feeling that he was remorseful, because it wasn’t remorse, it was doing everything you can to lessen your sentence.”
Miller also criticised the eleventh hour offer of emotional harm reparations of $4000 per family which was made to the families on Tuesday, calling it “blood money” that none of the families wanted any part in.
Stephen Drummond said he was pleased it was a custodial sentence, but felt Fleming should not have received credit for remorse, which he felt the man had not shown.
He said the whole process had been incredibly difficult for all the families, and the many friends who lost multiple mates that night.
“I’ve already done the hardest bit, the hardest bit was burying my boy.”
Richard Goodger said he would have liked to see Fleming receive a longer sentence.
“Two and a half years – it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, longer would have been better.
“It’s really bloody hard, I wish my son was home all the time, but I know that’s never going to happen. I love him dearly.”
In a statement issued following sentencing, Aoraki Area Commander Inspector Dave Gaskin, said the sentence was an acknowledgement of Fleming’s responsibility for the crash.
“It is not possible to change the event of that tragic night, nor remove the incredible amount of sadness that will remain with the families of the five young men whose lives were tragically cut short.
“On this occasion, a number of poor decisions contributed to an unthinkable sequence of events which resulted in the crash.”
The night of the crash
Fleming had been drinking alcohol before the crash, with the Crown saying he purchased two boxes of Long White, an alcoholic vodka drink, about 6.20pm on the day of the crash and then headed to the Caroline Bay skate park in his Nissan Bluebird with two passengers – Andrew Goodger and Niko Hill.
About 15 minutes later, they were joined by Javarney Drummond, Jack Wallace and Joseff McCarthy.
They spent about 20 minutes consuming the alcohol purchased by Fleming, and during this time Fleming posted a Snapchat of him “vortexing” (sculling while swirling the bottle) at least two bottles of Long White.
Just after 7pm everyone, except Andrew Goodger, got into the car. Fleming got out of his car and opened his boot so Goodger could get in.
Fleming then drove his car towards Meadows Rd, just north of Timaru.
“Whilst travelling in the boot Mr Goodger spoke to a friend on the phone. In the background a person could be heard telling the driver to speed up.”
At the intersection of Seadown and Meadows roads, Fleming failed to yield at the give way, failed to reduce his speed and, travelling at 110-115kmh, failed to make the corner and lost control of his vehicle.
“The overloading of the vehicle and the weight imbalance of having a passenger in the boot of the vehicle impacted on Mr Fleming’s ability to control the vehicle,” the court was told on April 5.
“The vehicle travelled a distance of approximately 60 metres before impacting with a large concrete pole.”
The vehicle split in two on impact and two passengers were thrown from the vehicle. The rear, with three passengers, remained at the point of impact. The front half of the car, with Fleming still in the driver’s seat, travelled another 26m down Seadown Rd.
“All passengers were killed instantly.”
Fleming was taken to hospital and a blood sample taken from him just after 9pm returned a result of 50+2 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.