Man abandoned seriously injured girlfriend after crash

A seriously injured woman was taken to hospital after being extracted from this car in Queenstown...
Marie Spendig was taken to hospital after being extracted from this car in Queenstown hours after the initial crash. Photo: Tracey Roxburgh

It appears as though the driver of a vehicle which crashed into the side of a building near the Queenstown CBD in March cut his girlfriend's seatbelt before leaving the scene.

Sahil Sudhir Shetty (26), of Sunshine Bay, this afternoon admitted one charge of causing bodily injury to Marie Spendig by carelessly driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of drink, in Queenstown on March 13.

The charge carries with it a maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment, or a $10,000 fine.

Ms Spendig (22), of Germany, was critically injured when the Honda Odyssey she was a passenger in crashed over a scrub embankment, on Gorge Rd, and became wedged between the embankment and a building.

She ultimately spent almost a month in ICU on a ventilator following emergency brain surgery.

Prosecuting Sergeant Ian Collin told Judge Mark Callaghan today Shetty, Ms Spendig and another associate left a resort bar at 3.43am.

The vehicle was driven along Shotover St and last seen on Robins Rd, heading away from the CBD.

Emergency services were not dispatched to the Gorge Road Retail Centre until 10.20am, some six hours later.

An employee had located the vehicle, and Ms Spendig who was able to move her arms and legs, but unable to speak.

She was transported to Lakes District Hospital and then to Dunedin Hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.

Sgt Collin said she fractured the left side of her skull, had a bleed beneath her skull, and damage to the right side of her brain due to the impairment of blood supply.

She also had brain swelling and damage to her left lung as a result of inhalation of stomach contents.

Ms Spendig, who has since returned home to Germany, was unable to speak for a month and was learning how to walk independently again.

Sgt Collin said when police searched the vehicle they discovered the passenger's seatbelt had been cut using a sharp object.

There was also blood splatter around the driver's side, including on the window, door, ignition, steering wheel and footwell.

Shetty's wallet, containing his ID and Ms Spendig's wallet were inside the car, along with three cell phones.

At 6pm Shetty called one of the cell phones, which was answered by police.

He inquired as to the ''condition of the victim'', Sgt Collin said.

Shetty told police he had "hitch-hiked home after a night out'' with his girlfriend and others, didn't remember the night and had just woken up.

He was subsequently located at an Arrowtown address with lacerations on his face.

A scene examination concluded the car had been heading from Queenstown towards Arthurs Point at speeds between 65kmh and 72kmh in the 50kmh zone.

It failed to negotiate a slight right-hand bend, crossed the centre line, left the road, drove over the bank and crashed into the building.

Shetty told police when he was interviewed on March 26 he had consumed five drinks.

While his recollection of events up to the crash was ''very good'' all he recalled afterwards as waking up with gravel around him, glass in his hair and ''no vision'' of the car.

He told police he had walked back to town, asked a member of the public for a ride home, went to sleep ''and woke up wondering what had happened to his girlfriend''.

A DNA sample from the blood in the driver's side of the vehicle confirmed Shetty was the driver.

He has been remanded to reappear in the Queenstown District Court on October 29 for sentence.

While that remand was on bail, Judge Callaghan said not to read anything into that.