Drink-driver caused ‘accident upon accident’ at Momona

A truck driver who ploughed into nine parked cars near Dunedin Airport was drunk.

Michael Roger Wardell (32) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday where he pleaded guilty to careless driving and driving in transport service with excess blood alcohol.

Following the Momona crash early on June 25, police noticed the driver smelled of alcohol. He later gave a blood-alcohol reading of 107mg — more than twice the legal limit.

Wardell claimed he had drunk two beers the night before.

Truck driver Michael Wardell may be facing an ‘‘enormous’’ bill over a Momona crash last month....
Truck driver Michael Wardell may be facing an ‘‘enormous’’ bill over a Momona crash last month. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

The court heard he had his truck and trailer unit, weighing 50tonnes, laden with bales of hay in Palmerston and had spent the night there.

Counsel Anne Stevens QC said her client drank alcohol in the pub and slept in his cab before driving without eating breakfast.

"He had no idea he would be over the limit," she said.

At 7.25am, almost an hour and a-half into his trip to Outram, the driver rounded the sharp bend in State Highway 86.

He told police he was confronted by a car in the wrong lane and swerved left to avoid it.

The explanation, Mrs Stevens said, was corroborated by CCTV footage from a nearby garage.

Once Wardell hit the first parked car, his steering failed and the wreckage multiplied.

"It was accident upon accident," Mrs Stevens said.

Judge David Robinson noted Wardell had another drink-driving conviction from 2009 and ordered a report on whether he would benefit from counselling.

He agreed to the defence suggestion not to stop the defendant from driving while on bail.

Wardell faced repaying an "enormous amount" to his victims and wanted to earn as much as possible before sentencing in September, Mrs Stevens said.



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