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A crash driver has been found guilty today of causing the death of his friend and leaving him to die on the side of the road - but not guilty of a more serious charge that drink was likely behind the fatal crash.
A jury took just over two hours to find Cody Marcus John Pierce, 23, guilty of careless driving causing the death of 43-year old Christchurch man Sean Frost while under the influence of drink "in a matter that is not an offence against the Land Transport Act".
He was also found guilty of being a driver involved in an accident where someone was killed or injured after he failed to stop and ascertain injury and give "all practicable assistance".
However, he was found not guilty of the more serious charge of causing Mr Frost's death by carelessly driving while under the influence of drink to such an extent "as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle".
The Christchurch District Court heard during the week-long trial that Pierce had been drinking bourbon and cola cans at a Darfield party before driving him and his mate into a power pole near West Melton, rural Canterbury, about 9pm on October 27, 2012.
The jury was shown a text he sent to his girlfriend at 7pm which declared he was "drunk".
At about 9pm, Pierce was driving with Mr Frost in the front passenger seat when he failed to take a moderate bend as he approached a T-intersection.
Pierce, a disqualified driver at the time, went onto the grass verge, narrowly missed a power pole, crossed the intersection and hit another power pole.
A friend who had been following behind, helped Pierce remove the seriously injured Mr Frost from the vehicle and lie him on the ground beside it.
A member of the public at the scene said Pierce claimed to have already phoned emergency services, but the Crown said there was no evidence he had.
Pierce's friend then drove him away from the scene and he flew to Australia within 24 hours.
Mr Frost died in hospital five days later.
Defence counsel Richard Maze argued there was nothing more Pierce could have done to help Mr Frost.
Pierce was never tested for being over the limit. Mr Maze said witnesses were wrong to think that Pierce had been intoxicated that day. He said Pierce had consumed just four drinks over a period of five hours.
Pierce will be sentenced on November 19.
He was granted bail until then by Judge Alistair Garland on the sole basis that he had returned from Australia voluntarily to face the charges.
However, the judge told Pierce it was "very likely" he would receive a jail term when he was sentenced.
- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ