Three relatives, two without licences, were racing unsafe
vehicles at high speeds on a winding, undulating road after
an afternoon of drinking shortly before a crash that killed
two young girls, a court has been told.
Merepeka Morehu-Clark, 14, and her 13-year-old sister
Brooklyn Morehu-Clark were being driven to visit their
grandmother's grave in the Bay of Plenty when the crash
happened on Christmas Day 2011.
They were not wearing seatbelts and died at the scene.
The Tauranga sisters were sitting in the back seat of a
vehicle allegedly driven by Hetaraka Hikurangi Reihana when
it collided with a ute on Welcome Bay Rd.
Reihana, the girls' mother Phillippa Vanessa Morehu, and
their cousin Haki Tepuere Davey have pleaded not guilty to
two charges each of manslaughter.
Their trial began today in the High Court at Hamilton.
Both sisters were flung from the vehicle, with Merepeka dying
instantly when she hit a grass verge. Brooklyn, who was found
trapped under the vehicle she was in, also died instantly.
"They were 13 and 14 at the time their lives ended in this
totally avoidable way," said Crown prosecutor Greg
Hollister-Jones told the jury in his opening this morning.
A 2-year-old child who was in the car restrained only by a
lap belt was also hospitalised with injuries.
Reihana walked away relatively unscathed.
Mr Hollister-Jones said Reihana, Davey and Morehu had been
drinking at a Welcome Bay home before deciding to go to their
family urupa on Christmas Day, 2011.
Only Morehu had a licence and that was a restricted class.
There was talk of racing to the cemetery to see who would get
there first, Mr Hollister-Jones said.
Reihana drove Morehu's car and, after performing a dangerous
overtaking manouevre, lost control and collided with the
vehicle of 39-year-old Brett McCready.
The collision caused Mr McCready's ute to flip, although he
was not injured.
Mr Hollister-Jones said Reihana later blew nearly twice the
legal breath alcohol limit and the deaths were "absolutely
"The accused, Mr Reihana was drunk and the other two accused
had also been drinking," he said.
"This was alcohol-fuelled madness ... deliberately racing
each other at high and reckless speeds in unsafe vehicles on
a winding road."
The trial before Justice Murray Gilbert is set down for three
weeks with 36 witnesses to give evidence.
- By James Ihaka of the New Zealand Herald