Driver jailed over crash that killed Christchurch teen

Angela O'Connor with a portrait of her daughter Alexia Noble, who was killed when the drunk...
Angela O'Connor with a portrait of her daughter Alexia Noble, who was killed when the drunk driver of the car she was in crashed after fleeing police. PHOTO: Martin Hunter
It was that middle-of-the-night phone call every parent dreads.

Just after midnight on November 17, Angela O’Connor was woken by her daughter Kandie, telling her to get up and get in the car.

“I’ll explain on the way,” she said.

During the drive to the hospital, she was told there had been a car crash and that her son, Zachery Noble, niece Angel Livingstone and their friend, Tristan Le Comte, were in hospital.

“What about Alexia?” she said and continued to ask.

It wasn’t until after 3.30am when she found out Alexia had been killed. She died instantly from her injuries at the scene.

The 18-year-old, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was thrown 10m from the vehicle, which crashed into a Christchurch East School building on Gloucester St.

The five friends, including the driver, Darrin Ray Stewart, had been having a night out.

Stewart was drunk and high when he got into his Mitsubishi Diamante on Linwood Ave at about 11pm and drove the four friends to town.

Several witnesses described him as visibly intoxicated.

Alexia Noble with her twin brother Zach Noble.
Alexia Noble with her twin brother Zach Noble.
He stopped to get petrol on Linwood Ave, where his friends noticed an unmarked police car.

Stewart asked another friend to drive as he did not have a licence, but the friend refused.

He then left the petrol station and was pulled over by police.

He parked the car unsafely and was asked to move it forward by the police officer.

Instead, Stewart fled and was pursued by police for about two minutes before abandoning the pursuit after he went over a speed bump and drove on to the wrong side of the road at an estimated speed of between 110 and 160kmh, witnesses said.

It was later found out, following his guilty plea in May, that the passengers in the vehicle had pleaded for him to stop.

Miss O’Connor said Alexia begged him to stop so she could get out. She was told he replied, “shut the f**k up.”

Shortly after, Stewart hit a curb on the wrong side of the road and lost control.

The car crashed through a metal fence and hit the building.

Stewart then got out of the car, jumped the fence and fled through the school grounds. It was two days later when he finally handed himself in to police.

It was later revealed his car had one bald tyre and three leaking shock absorbers, as well as exhaust issues that would not have passed a warrant of fitness.

He had cut out one of the seat belts to use as a dog lead in the days before the crash.

In May, he admitted a charge of manslaughter, three charges of reckless driving causing injury, failing to stop or ascertain injury and failing to stop for a police officer.

He was sentenced today to three and a-half years' imprisonment and disqualified from driving for five years, in the High Court at Christchurch.

Miss O’Connor said the devastating loss of her “bubbly and happy” daughter has had a significant impact on their large family.

Alexia and her twin brother Zachery, who was in the car, were inseparable and “did everything together.”

Alexia, Zachery and Stewart worked together at Polarcold Stores Ltd, but Miss O’Connor said Zachery and Stewart were friends “for years” before the crash.

Defence counsel Anselm Williams said a psychological assessment of Stewart had revealed he was “incredibly remorseful, apologetic and sad,” about what had happened.

“We are not going to forgive him, because he left the scene. If he had stayed at the scene of the accident, it could be a different story. But he left and hid for the whole weekend . . . he should have checked on his friends,” said Miss O’Connor.

“Everything would’ve changed if he stayed.”

Six victim impact statements were read out in court today.

More than 500 people attended the funeral of the former Cashmere High School student.

“She was bubbly, always our entertainment, happy, chirpy, loved by everyone,” Miss O’Connor said.

“Whenever I was sad she would always say: ‘I love you mummy.’ She knew that would get me smiling and she would play our song . . . she would have been a great mother. We won’t get to see that.”

Alexia’s young nieces and nephews are struggling to deal with her death.

Her five-year-old niece often sits next to a photo board of Alexia, in their home and cries.

“All they want is their aunty Alexia back,” she said.

 - Sophie Cornish

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