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The death of her two friends weighed heavily on the shoulders of Annika Natalie Ludlow, the Oamaru District Court heard during sentencing on Thursday.
Ludlow (19), of Palmerston, was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention on two charges of driving drunk, causing the deaths of Kararaina Terupe (27) and her partner Hamiora Te Kira (28) in a crash on Macraes Rd, near Palmerston, in August last year.
Judge Jim Large said after reading the victim impact statements from the whanau of the two deceased he perhaps had some knowledge of the "depth of hurt and depth of loss" suffered by them. He also had sympathy for the defendant’s family, who were also in court.
Whanau of the victim and the defendant, as well as the defendant herself, were all visibly upset during the judge’s summing up.
Judge Large said one of the victim impact statements told of how the parents of the victims were having to deal with the grief of their mokopuna as well as their own grief, and had lost the joy of being grandparents, as they were now full-time carers of the victims’ children.
"Families have been changed forever because of your actions that night," he told Ludlow. "But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know."
On August 29, the defendant, who was 18 at the time, had bought a new Honda Civic in Dunedin and come back to Palmerston to the home of a work associate, where she drank alcohol.
Miss Terupe and Mr Te Kira (28) were also at the house.
Ludlow asked Miss Terupe if she would like to go for a drive in her new car, and they left, along with Ludlow’s partner and Mr Te Kira.
The defendant and her partner were in the front of the car, while the two deceased were in the back.
They travelled to the Bucklands area before driving back towards Palmerston along Macraes Rd.
About 11.45pm, the defendant, who was on her learner licence, failed to take a corner while driving downhill and hit gravel on the left hand side of the road. She then over-corrected and spun out, at a speed of about 98kmh.
The Honda went off the road and rolled end over end down a steep bank, the left rear quarter making initial contact with rocks on the bank. The rear end and roof took most of the collision force and was crushed significantly. The front half was mostly undamaged.
Miss Terupe and Mr Te Kira, who were not wearing seatbelts, suffered severe non-survivable head and spinal injuries and died shortly after impact.
Ludlow was taken to Dunedin Hospital, where a blood sample, taken about five hours after the crash, returned a blood reading of 92mg per 100ml of blood.
During his submissions to the judge, defence counsel Michael de Buyzer said his client accepted full responsibility for what occurred, and the pre-sentence report writer said she showed "remorse, if not extraordinary remorse" for her actions.
"It is something she has borne on her shoulders very heavily," Mr de Buyzer said.
She had a memorial tattoo as a permanent reminder of the incident, and had a strong desire to make some sort of reparation, although she knew it would be a "token contribution", as a value could not be put on human life.
Judge Large told the defendant she was young and made a foolish decision.
"The sentence I have to impose today has an end date. The sentence you’ve imposed on others doesn’t."
Ludlow said she felt like she had lost family — Miss Terupe’s and Mr Te Kira’s children used to call her Aunty — and she wished she could take back what she did.
Judge Large said Ludlow had no previous convictions and was a young woman of "otherwise good character".
"You made a sad decision with huge consequences."
He set the starting point for Ludlow’s sentence at three and a-half years’ jail. He gave her discounts for her early guilty plea, her age, offer of reparation and her real remorse. She was also disqualified from driving for three years, and ordered to pay $10,000 reparation to the victims’ families.