Gorge crash puncher in court


A passenger in a crashed vehicle swung punches at two firefighters who were trying to help other injured passengers, a court has heard.

Mathew Hill Tamakehu, 54, an Alexandra shed hand, walked away from a November 11 crash in the Kawarau Gorge, which severely injured two other passengers, the Alexandra district court was told yesterday.

But when fire volunteers came to help, Tamakehu became abusive and started swinging punches – hitting one firefighter in the ribs, taking his breath away, and hitting another firefighter on the chin.

Prosecutor sergeant Penny Stratford says the group in the car had been drinking since about 2pm and left Alexandra to drive to Queenstown.

But the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a barrier about 1km north of the Roaring Meg power station at 9.30pm.

Emergency services were called. A front-seat passenger was trapped in the vehicle and the Cromwell volunteer fire brigade was called to help.

The firefighters were trying to help but were obstructed by Tamakehu, who was sitting in the driver’s seat, Sgt Stratford said.

The firefighters had no lasting injuries as a result of the assault, Stratford says.

Tamakaehu was restrained until police arrived.

He then declined to make comment to police about the incident.

Yesterday, he pleaded guilty to two summary offence assaults and was remanded on bail for sentencing on February 25 to allow restorative justice.

Judge Kevin Phillips asked for emotional harm reports.

While on bail, Tamakehu is not allowed to consume alcohol or drugs or associate with the assault victims.

Duty lawyer Justine Baird said Tamakehu opposed an in-court photograph and wanted written submissions to be made.

Phillips says the case is a matter of public interest because of the high level of publicity and granted permission for the Otago Daily Times to take an in-court photo.

Otago Daily Times