Man jailed over passenger’s crash death in Tongatapu

'Oku 'i lalo ha fakamatala faka-Tonga

A man who crashed a car, killing a passenger, has been jailed today for three years and three months.

‘Aisake Lavelua, 36, died after a car driven by Mafoa’aeata Latu, 26, left the road and hit a lamp post in Fo’ui.

Lavelua was a passenger in the car when it flipped onto its left side and skidded into a tree where it flipped back to its normal state. He later died in Vaiola hospital.

Mr Latu pleaded guilty to one count of reckless driving causing death contrary to section 25(5) of the Traffic Act and one count of reckless driving causing grievous harm contrary to section 25(4) of the Traffic Act on 26 July 2018.

On the offence of reckless driving causing death contrary to section 25(5) of the Traffic Act Lord Chief Justice Owen Paulsen convicted Mr. Latu and sentenced him to 3 years and 3 months imprisonment.

The last 15 months of his sentence of imprisonment is to be suspended for two years subject to the following conditions:

  • He will commit no offences punishable by imprisonment during the period of the suspension;
  • He will be placed on Probation during the period of the suspension and is to live where directed by his Probation Officer;
  • He is to enrol and complete within 6 months of his release from Prison both Life Skills and Drug and Alcohol Abuse courses with the Salvation Army or some other suitable provider as directed by Probation.

Mr Paulsen also revoked Mr. Latu’s driving license (if any) and disqualify him from obtaining any driver’s license for a period of 3 years from today’s date.

In relation to the count of reckless driving causing grievous harm contrary to section 25(4) of the Traffic Act, Mr. Latu was convicted and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment to be served concurrently with the offence of reckless driving causing death.

The court judgement said Mr. Latu and others were drinking at Kanokupolu on 3 March 2018 and it was late in the evening when they decided to drive to get more alcohol in Mr. Latu’s car.

Mr. Latu drove the car with four passengers.

On the way back Mr. Latu was driving at high speed and lost control of his car.

The car hit a lamp post on its right side and flipped onto its left side and skidded into a tree where it flipped back to its normal state.

The deceased was thrown from the car and died a few days later in Viola Hospital from injuries that he suffered.

Another passenger, Senitilia Siale was rendered unconscious in the car and suffered a fractured cervical spine and soft tissue injuries for which she spent 6 weeks in hospital. She is still suffering effects from her injuries and is receiving treatment.

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