Man’s actions had ‘catastrophic’ impact on crash victim

Marie Spendig was trapped in the vehicle for several hours between an embankment and a building...
Marie Spendig was trapped in the vehicle for several hours between an embankment and a building on Gorge Rd. Photo: Tracey Roxburgh
A man has been sentenced to 16 months’ prison for leaving his girlfriend lying seriously injured for several hours after a crash in Queenstown.

Sahil Sudhir Shetty (26) previously admitted a charge of aggravated careless driving causing injury to Marie Spendig on March 13.

Miss Spendig, from Germany, was critically injured when the Honda Odyssey in which she was a passenger crashed over a scrub embankment in Gorge Rd and became wedged between the embankment and a back wall of the Gorge Road Retail Centre.

She spent almost a month in Dunedin Hospital’s ICU on a ventilator after undergoing emergency brain surgery.

Sahil Sudhir Shetty. Photo: ODT
Sahil Sudhir Shetty. Photo: ODT

In the Queenstown District Court yesterday, Judge Bernadette Farnan told Shetty, an Indian national who has been living in the resort for the past four years, the outcome of his actions were "catastrophic" to his victim.

If he had reported the crash to the police immediately, she would have been found and treated much sooner.

"She is unlikely ever to be restored to full health."

After drinking with Miss Spendig in downtown bars until about 3.45am, Shetty was driving at up to 72kmh when he failed to negotiate a slight right-hand bend, veered across the centre line and over the bank.

An employee found the vehicle and Ms Spendig lying beside it about 10.20am, more than six hours after the crash.

She was able to move her arms and legs, but was unable to speak.

Shetty had walked back into town and hitched a ride home to Arrowtown. When he finally rang one of the cellphones left in the car at 6pm that evening, it was answered by a police officer.

Judge Farnan said Miss Spendig had suffered "severe consequences" to her physical health. She had suffered a fracture to the left side of her skull, a bleed beneath her skull, and damage to the right side of her brain due to the impairment of blood supply.

She had damage to her left lung as a result of inhalation of stomach contents.

She was unable to speak for a month and, as of July, was still learning how to walk independently.

She had also suffered a broken collarbone and torn ligaments.

Shetty’s actions since the crash had demonstrated little remorse, she said.

He had not written an apology to his former girlfriend, or made any payments for emotional harm.

"You do not appear to understand the seriousness of your offending."

In an earlier court appearance, he claimed to have spent two weeks at her bedside in Dunedin Hospital.

After a victim impact statement written by Miss Spendig’s parents revealed that to be a lie, Shetty admitted that although he had travelled to Dunedin, they had denied him permission to see her.

Prosecuting Sergeant Ian Collin recommended a prison sentence of two and a-half years.

The offending was of the "very highest culpability", demanding "denunciation of his actions to deter himself and others".

In reaching the sentence of 16 months’ jail, Judge Farnan made discounts for Shetty’s previous good character and clean record, his guilty plea, and the fact he had been on restrictive bail conditions for the past five months.

Although he will be deported after his release, she disqualified him from driving for four years, and ordered him to make a $500 payment to Miss Spendig for emotional harm.


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