Festive fear

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His brother was killed – now this man is terrified again

In the countdown to the festive silly season, Queens­towner Dean Payn has a chilling message for potential drink-drivers.

The 32-year-old father of four knows first-hand about the devastation that can be heaped upon families by someone getting behind the wheel after downing a few too many.

Payn was just 15 when his elder brother Charlie died after a car smash while being driven by a pal who’d been boozing.

And he’s worried about reports that Queenstown police and local judges are concerned at the number of people pulled over on resort roads in recent weeks and found to be over the limit.

“I had a brother taken from me because of someone’s decision to drink and drive,” Payn says. “To think this is on the increase here really gets me on edge.

“I know how much of an impact it can have on families. One stupid moment can ruin a lot of lives.”

Originally from Auckland, Payn came to Queenstown last year when he and wife Maria took up posts as senior pastors at the City Impact Church on Hansen Road near

Frankton.

He hopes his own experiences of tragedy will serve as a warning to others.

In September 1992, his family’s world was turned upside down when cops knocked on the door at 3am to say his brother Charlie, 18, had been in a crash.

The lads were living in Australia with their mum and stepfather at Mount Nebo, near Brisbane, when the accident happened.

Charlie and some pals had spent the day sailing. His friends had been drinking but designated driver Payn hadn’t.

However, after dropping off two mates on the way home, he let another pal who’d been boozing take the wheel – they spun off the road and into a tree.

The driver was killed instantly. Charlie went into a coma and died a month later in intensive care.

“He was on two life-support machines and suffered 75 per cent brain damage,” explains Payn. “It was like something from a movie, with tubes coming out of his body and sensors everywhere.

“The reality was that his life had been damaged because of a drink-driving accident and here were the consequences.

“I felt like I’d lost my best mate and was pretty messed up for a while.

“To this day 16 years on, my mum and dad have never got over it. They both are still suffering.”

Payn urges anyone to think carefully before taking the car on a big night out – especially with the party season looming.

“I’ve nothing against anyone having a good time but they should make it part of their plan to arrange to get themselves and others home safely.” he says.

“Some people do make stupid decisions by jumping into a car after they’ve been drinking, instead of getting a taxi or a lift.

“But they have family and friends who love them, and when some­thing goes wrong it’s those left behind who have to bear the pain.

“Everyone thinks it’ll never happen to them but there are too many of those stories out there and I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone.”

The death of his brother proved a turning point for Payn.

Not long afterwards, he moved back to Auckland and threw himself into helping other kids. There, at 19, he became the full-time youth pastor for City Impact and stayed in the job 11 years.

It was another part-time role as missions director that first brought him to Queenstown. And after visiting the resort on many occasions, Payn was installed as church pastor in late 2007.

“I wouldn’t have come here unless I intended it to be for the long haul,” he insists. “When you’re working with people in a community, you have to build trust and goodwill – and that only happens over time.”