The collision occurred in a construction zone of Transmission Gully (road pictured here) where the two cars were travelling at more than double the signposted speed limit of 70km/h. Photo / Mark Tantrum
A “cat and mouse” street race that saw two men blatting along a state highway at speeds of up to 165km/h had devastating consequences – one of them is dead and the other will live with regret for the rest of his life.
It was around 2am when Toalua Schuster finished work in Central Wellington on November 18 last year.
He stayed on to socialise with other employees until around 3.15am, when he headed to his car to drive home.
Also on the road at that time was the victim, who was known to Schuster. While heading along State Highway 1, the two men began to race each other.
On Thursday, the Porirua District Court heard they took turns driving in front of each other in what was described as the pair “playing cat and mouse”.
As they rounded a “moderate left-hand bend”, Schuster was driving in the left lane and the victim was in the right.
They travelled alongside each other at speeds between 154 and 165km/h before the victim crossed into the left lane and collided with the rear of Schuster’s vehicle.
While both men lost control of their cars, the victim’s flipped and landed on the centre barrier. His injuries from the crash were fatal and he died at the scene.
The collision occurred in a section of road between the Tawa interchange and Mungavin interchange, falling within the then-construction zone of Transmission Gully where a speed limit of 70km/h was signposted.
In court, Schuster appeared for sentence for his part in the fatal street race.
He spoke of his regret, stating there was nothing he could say or do that would bring back the victim.
“I am ashamed for the part I played,” he said.
His grief was acknowledged by Judge Lawry Hinton, who described the fatal crash as tragic.
“You are a person who right from the get-go has wholly accepted responsibility and been bereaved in terms of the consequences of this tragic event,” the judge said.
While the role the victim played in the crash was accepted by the court, Schuster was charged, and subsequently admitted, a count of unnecessary exhibition of speed or acceleration causing death.
He was sentenced to 11 months of home detention and disqualified from driving for four years.
An order for him to pay the family of the victim $10,000 in emotional harm reparation was also imposed.
The court heard Schuster had additionally made a traditional Samoan apology to the family, which had been accepted.
The name of the deceased was suppressed, as was the statement made by those affected by his death.