Nelson men warned to address alcoholism after causing crashes while drunk


One Nelson man hit two other vehicles while drunk and another was almost five times the limit. (File photo)

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One Nelson man hit two other vehicles while drunk and another was almost five times the limit. (File photo)

Two Nelson men have been warned by a judge that they need to face their alcohol addictions after they were involved in two different crashes in which others were injured.

Rhys Tumai​, 25 was sentenced on charges of driving with excess breath alcohol, driving in a dangerous manner, dangerous driving causing injury and failing to stop and ascertain injury.

On the evening of November 25, Tumai was driving south on Whakatu Drive, going faster than the 100 kilometre speed limit when he cut in front of a vehicle where the lanes merged nearly causing an accident.

He was unable to stop and drove into the rear of a vehicle in front which was driven by a man who had his 13-year-old daughter as a passenger.

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The crash caused the teenage girl’s head to hit the headrest and she suffered deep bruising to her skull and ongoing headaches and isolated pain.

The crash caused extensive damage to Tumai’s vehicle, obscuring his vision, but despite the other vehicle pulling over, Tumai didn’t. Another person drove past the crash scene and Tumai drove into the rear of her vehicle, pushing it forward.

He then drove to Nayland Rd where he parked the vehicle and fled on foot. Police found him nearby and a breath test gave a result of 747 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.

Judge Jo Rielly​ said the combination of driving charges was “very concerning”.

“This was very bad driving on not one but two occasions while under the influence of alcohol and it is a significant aggravating feature of your offending that you failed to stop to check if anyone was injured.”

Rhys Tumai and Jamie Ross Coldwell were sentenced in the Nelson District Court on Tuesday. (File photo)

Virginia Woolf/Stuff

Rhys Tumai and Jamie Ross Coldwell were sentenced in the Nelson District Court on Tuesday. (File photo)

Lawyer Tim Spear​ said Tumai did not have a problem with drugs or alcohol, it was “just one of those days where young men have too much to drink and get into fast cars and sometimes things go badly wrong”.

But Judge Rielly​ said: “I think you need to reflect on that because anyone who is prepared to drive like this while under the influence of alcohol, in my view, does at least have some level of addiction”.

A letter Tumai had written to the sentencing judge was articulate and showed his level of remorse which was a credit to him.

Tumai was sentenced to 120 hours community work, disqualified him from driving for six months. He was disqualified from driving for 12 months and ordered to complete a driver education programme, an assessment for alcohol misuse issues and to pay $3776.60 to the third victim in reparation.

Jamie Ross Coldwell​, 45, was also sentenced in the Nelson District Court on Tuesday on charges of driving with excess blood alcohol and careless driving.

The court heard how in the early hours of May 31, Coldwell was driving a vehicle with two passengers on Staples St in Motueka when he lost control on a sharp corner and the vehicle flipped upside down and landed in a deep tidal drain.

Coldwell and the two others were pulled from the vehicle by police around 2am. All three were taken to Nelson Hospital by ambulance.

Both men were found to have been several times over the limit when they were involved in car crashes, injuring others. (File photo)

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Both men were found to have been several times over the limit when they were involved in car crashes, injuring others. (File photo)

A blood test gave a reading of 246 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which is more than three times the legal limit.

In explanation, Coldwell told police he was “very sorry” and that he should have drowned as a result of the accident.

Judge Rielly said an alcohol and drug report and a probation report showed Coldwell had a “sad background” and a drinking addiction since he was young. He had referred himself to a rehabilitative programme.

“I accept that during the course of your life, since the age of 13 you have suffered a significant amount of adversity.”

Judge Rielly said it was Coldwell’s fourth appearance for drink driving, which meant a term of imprisonment was a viable sentencing option, but Judge Rielly said that wouldn’t assist him or the community.

“I imagine the fact that you nearly died and that your two friends could well have died in that crash has been very sobering for you, I certainly hope it has.

“Every time you get behind the wheel intoxicated, particularly to the level that you have been, you place the community at significant risk.”

Coldwell was sentenced to 200 hours community work, 12 months intensive supervision and disqualified from driving indefinitely. He was ordered to pay $189.25 in costs for the blood test.