Driver gets home detention for asleep-at-wheel death

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A Cromwell truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and killed a mum near Queenstown has been sentenced to nine months’ home detention.

Brent Andrew Gordon, 48, was told by Judge Kevin Phillips in the Queenstown District Court today (Monday) that the death of Joanne Steele could have been avoided if Gordon had simply rested.

Gordon previously pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of Steele, from Invercargill, and injuring her 16-year-old daughter Aimee during a head-on collision at Wye Creek, near Jack’s Point, on February 25.

Gordon had also pleaded guilty to careless driving causing injury to Pippa Gaye Shaw – travelling in another vehicle – who was pregnant at the time. Shaw later gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

The court heard that Gordon, an experienced concrete truck driver working for Pumpcrete, had started work at 4am and travelled to Te Anau and Winton during the course of his 13-hour working day.

Under the Land Transport Act, truck drivers are not allowed to drive after 12 hours on the job. Gordon was also charged with falsifying his log book to say he started at 6am – an offence he also pleaded guilty to.

It was on his way back home that Gordon fell asleep at the wheel of his 21-tonne truck while taking a moderate left-hand bend, crossed the centre line and hit Steele’s car.

“There was a major impact. Mrs Steele was killed instantly. Aimee was trapped inside and had to be air-lifted out,” Judge Phillips told Gordon.

The married mother of four was “a beacon for those in need” and her family is still coming to terms with their loss.

Judge Phillips didn’t agree with the defence argument that the hold-ups Gordon had had earlier in the day in Winton were partly to blame for him working long hours and getting tired.

“You made the decision to go home. You could have easily stayed put and spent the night in Te Anau.

“Perhaps if you had all your breaks then none of us would be sitting here today.”

Judge Phillips accepted Gordon’s offer to pay $30,000 to the families and $4000 for the towing services used after the accident. The offer of reparation and the immediate guilty plea were mitigating factors which caused Judge Phillips to lower the sentence.

Gordon was disqualified from driving for 20 months.