Driver on cannabis before fatal crash

Papamoa man Iain Stewart Crisp smoked cannabis within half an hour of the Maungatapu bridge fatal crash that killed 24-year-old Tauranga father Gregory Woledge.

Crisp, 45, who yesterday admitted causing the crash, was heading home about 6pm on August 12 when his vehicle veered right into the opposing lane and collided head-on with Mr Woledge's work van.

The van became airborne and rotated through the bridge railings and plunged into the harbour with Mr Woledge and his 23-year-old work colleague Ashley Donkersley still inside.

Mr Woledge was trapped inside the submerged van and died despite desperate efforts to rescue him.

Constable Deane O'Connor leaped off the bridge into the harbour and helped rescue Mr Donkersley who managed to force open the left passenger door to create a big enough gap to escape the van.

Mr Donkersley and Mr O'Connor were both treated for hypothermia.

Mr Donkersley's temperature was so critically low that he was assessed at extreme risk of having a heart attack.

After crashing into Mr Woledge's work van, Crisp's vehicle spun 180 degrees and ended up facing the vehicle travelling behind and the other driver could not avoid a head-on collision.

Crisp, employed as a bus driver at the time of the crash, had to be cut free from his vehicle.

Crisp, 45, who appeared in Tauranga District Court yesterday, pleaded guilty to charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing death, careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury, and causing a false statement to be entered in a logbook.

Crisp also admitted charges of possession of cannabis, possession of cannabis for supply, possession of cannabis seeds and possession of cannabis utensils.

Judge Louis Bidois remanded Crisp on bail pending sentencing on April 7, and imposed a condition that he not drive any motor vehicle.

The police summary of facts revealed that as well as consuming cannabis, in the 12 days before the crash Crisp had, on four occasions, driven in excess of his maximum allowed hours.

He was also getting minimal sleep over that period.

Crisp also falsified his logbook by recording his finishing time that day as 8.30pm - two-and-a-half hours after the crash.

When police searched his vehicle they found a total of 17.3 grams of cannabis head material, a small stainless steel pipe and a used modified bourbon can, both used to consume cannabis.

Also found was a plastic bag containing 54 cannabis seeds.

A blood sample was taken from Crisp at Tauranga Hospital and subsequently analysed, which revealed that within three hours prior to the sample being taken at 8.34pm he had consumed the equivalent of a single cannabis cigarette.

Crisp told police he had no recollection of entering on to the bridge or the crash.

Total reparation of $32,134.60 is being sought, including $16,134.60 for the cost of repairs to the bridge, and $11,000 for the damage to the other driver's vehicle.

Judge Bidois told Crisp that the starting point "must be jail" but he would receive significant credit for his early guilty pleas.

Crisp's lawyer Bill Nabney said his client would be seeking to participate in a restorative justice meeting with the victims' families if they were willing.

Crisp declined to comment when the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend visited his home yesterday.

Mr Woledge's father Kevin Woledge said Crisp's guilty pleas were a "pretty bittersweet situation" for him and other family members, including his son's partner Chelsea Findsen, who was still struggling to cope with the tragedy.

 

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