Drunk driver jailed seven years for double tragedy

A man accused over the death of a mother and her 4-year-old son in Savai’i during a fatal collision in May has been jailed for seven years and five months.

The sentence for Sinei Aunei of Neiafu, Savai’i, was handed down by Supreme Court Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa yesterday.

The prosecutor was Anne Matalasi of the Attorney General’s Office. 

Leota Tima Le’avai represented the defendant.

Aunei pleaded guilty to two charges of motor manslaughter and one charge of negligent driving causing injury.

According to the probation report, on 31 May, Aunei went with one of his co-workers to his co-worker’s house in Salelologa and had drinks there.

They were drinking homemade brew from 5:30 in the evening until 7pm.

Then he left to go to his family in Iva when the crash happened.

The Probation officer was told that on the night of the crash, Aunei fell asleep behind the wheel. He did not when and how the collision happened. He said he only came to his senses at the Police station.

He accepted that he was highly intoxicated.

The Police summary of facts said that Aunei’s friend had advised the defendant to leave his car there at Salelologa as he was very drunk but the defendant did not listen.

The Court was told that not only was he speeding from Salelologa to Iva, he was driving from side to side without his headlights on.  

He bumped into the back of an Ah Liki delivery truck but he didn’t stop.

Moments later, he smashed into a mini-van driven by a 17-year-old boy. His mother and younger brother were in the car.

The defendant’s truck went over the mini-van and dragged the mini-van about 10 meters away from where the crashed occurred.

The mother and her 4-year old son died instantly while the 17-year-old had suffered very severe injuries to his face, body and his head.

According to the victim’s impact report read out in open court, the 17-year-old has been badly traumatised. He misses his mother and younger brother every day.

He still feels pain in his body and he also uses sticks to help him walk properly.

According to the husband of the deceased, he said he has difficulties forgetting his wife and his son.

He misses them both every day. He also said that he wanted to die when he the incident occurred.

He added that he is still angry with the defendant and that he does not want to see the defendant because of what happened.

Although he had accepted the ifoga performed by Aunei, he said he could never forgive him for what he has done to his family.

In reading out the aggravating features Justice Tuatagaloa considered that the defendant did not accept the advise from the defendant’s friend to leave his car.

“You were speeding, and you were under the influence of alcohol,” said Justice Tuatagaloa.

“You have put the lives of all the people at risk on this day. You didn’t stop when you hit the back of Ah Liki’s delivery car.”

“From Salelologa to Iva is no near place but you went zig zagging and your head lights were not on.”

As mitigating features the court accepted the letters from the defendant’s pastor, boss at work, and the village mayor.

The court also took into consideration his early guilty plea.

Prosecution recommended 12 years as a starting point for your sentencing; your counsel recommended 7 years the court has recommended 12 years as a starting point for your sentencing.

The court deducts 2 years for your good character and deduct 25 percent for your early guilty plea.

You have been convicted to 7 years and 5 months for the charges of motor manslaughter and 2 years for negligent driving causing injury all these will served concurrently.

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