An award-winning truck driver has been disgraced after causing a head-on crash and leaving his six victims for dead.
In October last year, Dean Francis Rodgers, 52, was presented with a “Hero Award” for his bravery manoeuvring a burning truck to safety in Makikihi earlier that year.
Three months later his actions on January 8 in Ravensbourne Rd were in stark contrast.
After the Holden Commodore he was driving hit an oncoming SUV, Rodgers spoke to a couple of witnesses then fled the scene on foot.
The subterfuge continued the next day when he contacted police, claiming he had been asleep in the back of the car when the crash occurred.
Meanwhile, two teenage boys fought for their life in hospital.
“Remarkably”, Judge David Robinson said, a 13-year-old victim forgave the man who caused him a shocking array of injuries.
As a result of the crash, the teen needed bowel surgery and had a stent put in his heart following an aortic dissection.
Despite that, the victim and his mother — who attended a tearful restorative justice conference with the defendant — asked for the court not to punish Rodgers.
The driver of the SUV said he recalled regaining consciousness with his older son, aged 15, beside him not breathing while his younger son screamed from the back.
“I still think about the time [my son] was in ICU unresponsive, not knowing if he would wake up or wake up the same boy,” the father said.
Rodgers was driving along the stretch of road, which was the site of a fatal crash just last week, faster than 60km/h.
There was a temporary speed limit of 30km/h on the stretch, the court heard.
As the defendant rounded a left-hand bend, he crossed the centre line.
Rodgers hit a metal barrier separating the road from the footpath, then ricocheted into the path of the victims’ oncoming SUV.
Had the angle of collision been slightly different there would almost certainly have been a fatality, its driver said.
For several of the victims, the healing process was long and arduous.
The list of injuries they suffered took up more than a page on the police summary of facts and Judge Robinson — a former coroner — said some of them were consistent with those seen in fatal accidents.
The 15-year-old boy, his father said, had sustained a traumatic brain injury and both his sporting and academic pursuits had been put on hold.
While he was “heading in the right direction”, fatigue was still a factor and his education had suffered a serious setback.
Judge Robinson acknowledged Rodgers’ heroism award but also noted he had two convictions — one for making a false statement and one for a false entry in a logbook.
The defendant claimed to have little memory of the crash but that was doubted by Probation.
Despite that, the judge assessed the man’s remorse as genuine.
He said there was an argument the defendant should be jailed for his actions but ultimately stopped short of incarceration.
On six charges of dangerous driving causing injury and one of failing to stop, Rodgers was sentenced to nine months’ home detention and 250 hours’ community work and ordered to pay each victim $2000.
He was banned from driving for a year and a day.
“My plea to you is to use your experience to improve the driving of others. Spread this message to anyone who will listen because it needs to be heard,” Judge Robinson said.
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