Drinking, plus pool in back of ute unstable combination

A "privileged" teenager flipped his ute after filling the rear with water to use it as a paddling pool, a court has heard.

Harrison Alexander Russell (18) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday on a charge of dangerous driving.

Judge Michael Crosbie said the charge somewhat disguised the seriousness of the incident.

"It's a low-level offence for the degree of risk that you took and the risk you took with other people's lives," he said.

"This is staggeringly stupid behaviour."

Russell was at Lake Hawea on Labour weekend to socialise with friends at a holiday house.

On October 21 - a hot day - he bought a tarpaulin to line the tray of his ute.

Russell then drove down a boat ramp and filled up the back with lake water.

During the afternoon, the group used it as a paddling pool while they consumed alcohol, the court heard.

By the evening the water had become "spoiled" and Russell emptied it out.

Though he too had been drinking, he said he planned to return to the boat ramp to refill the rear.

As an under-20 driver he was subject to a zero-alcohol limit.

Knowing that, several of Russell's friends had urged him not to drive. He ignored them.

Russell and two others filled the ute using buckets of water and they headed back to the crib.

On the return journey though, the excess load resulted in the defendant losing control.

The vehicle spun 180 degrees before flipping on to its roof. Russell and his mates fled.

Defence counsel Kate Logan said her client had attempted to call police about the crash that evening and attended a police station voluntarily the following day.

Russell's family was in court to support him.

Judge Crosbie said Russell had a good start to life "if not a very privileged start".

"Isn't it good that they're here and not at your funeral?"

The flashpoint, he hoped, would be "a blip".

Russell was fined $800, court costs $130 and banned from driving for a year.


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