Hensman left to sweat


A prominent Queenstown businessman charged over a motorcycle crash 16 months ago will have to wait until June to learn his fate.

Judge Tony Couch yesterday reserved his decision following a four-day, judge-alone trial in the Queenstown District Court.

Skyline Enterprises director and shareholder Philip John Hensman, 64, denies causing injury to Sharon Ann Gower by careless driving while under the influence of alcohol near the resort in late 2013.

Hensman and Gower were injured when they crashed on a bend in Littles Road, Dalefield, during a joyride on a friend’s motorcycle on the evening of December 19.

Hensman was vaulted over the machine’s handlebars and suffered a head wound when he landed on the edge of the road.

He was flown to Invercargill’s Southland Hospital after initially being treated at Lakes District Hospital.

Gower received 19 stitches for a head gash after her helmet came off in the crash, as well as cuts and grazes to her legs.

Analysis of Hensman’s blood test showed blood-alcohol levels below but near the then legal limit of 80mg per 100ml of blood.

The hearing resumed on Tuesday after a one-month adjournment.

Prosecutor sergeant Ian Collin said yesterday Hensman was travelling at more than 70kmh on the bend, well above the 45kmh indicated by a speed advisory sign.

Plus, his judgement was impaired by alcohol.

The first police officer at the scene, senior constable Terry Erceg, noticed a “pungent” smell of alcohol in the ambulance containing Hensman and Gower.

The doctor who treated Hensman at Lakes District Hospital gave evidence that the defendant told him he had “drunk too much”, Collin says.

Much of the trial focused on conflicting evidence given by police serious crash unit investigator senior constable Alastair Crosland and defence crash expert Dr Tim Stevenson, of Christchurch.

Both men were subjected to exhaustive cross-examination on issues such as the motorcycle’s speed and lean angle, tyre and scratch marks on the road, tyre tread, sun strike and road signage.

A particular focus was on whether loose gravel on the bend contributed to the crash.

Stevenson concluded the gravel was the chief cause of the accident, having a “ball-bearing effect” that caused the motorbike’s rear wheel to briefly slip sideways.

When the tyre regained its grip on the road, the motorbike had “popped back upright”, setting it on a course towards the ditch on the inside of the bend.

He rejected Crosland’s contention that the motorbike’s rear tyre tread would have “trapped” the gravel within its tread sufficiently to maintain a safe grip on the road.

Stevenson estimated the motorcycle to be travelling about 50kmh, “give or take” 5kmh. If the speed had been “truly excessive”, he would have expected the motorbike to have left the road on the outside of the bend.

Alexandra’s Crosland said the gravel could have caused “twitchiness” in the rear wheel, but not a sustained loss of control.

Scratch marks on the road indicate gravel was a “very small” factor in the crash, he says.

Collin said neither Erceg nor three Queenstown council engineers who visited the scene the day after the crash considered there to be enough gravel on the bend to justify having the road swept.

An accountant and developer, Hensman is also a director of Skyline Enterprises, with a shareholding in the company worth tens of millions of dollars.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison or a $10,000 fine, and disqualification from driving for a minimum of 12 months.

Judge Couch remanded Hensman at large. June 30 has been pencilled in as the next hearing date.