At about 9.30 pm on Saturday 1st December 2007, Jared Thomas was the front seat passenger in a Nissan Cefiro car traveling to the Meeanee Speedway on Brookfield’s Road, Hastings.
The car was driven by Jared’s younger brother, Willy Flynn. It was Willy’s car and he loved it. He wouldn’t let anyone else drive it, no matter how much he had had to drink.
Sitting in the back seat was Te Eru Phillips and Richard Harmer. They were friends of Willy. The boy’s had been having a few beers at a party in Hastings and had decided to drive to the speedway.
They turned into Brookfield’s Road from Pakowhai Road. Willie accelerated down the straight, reaching 180 km/h. This resulted in the fuel cutout activating and the car began to misfire.
Jared yelled at Willie to slow down. Willie responded with “Watch me drift, Bro” as he tapped the brakes and attempted to take a left hand bend at high speed. The car went into an uncontrolled slide, colliding with the wooden roadside barriers before smashing into a tree on the driver’s side of the car.
The force of the impact has spun the vehicle 180 degree before smashing into another tree, this time into the passenger’s side where Jared was sitting. The energy generated as the car spun between the two trees has been so immense that both rear seat passengers have been thrown out of the car through the rear window.
Neither were wearing their seatbelt!! Both males landed on the ground behind the wrecked car. Te Eru Phillips had massive head injuries. Richard Harmer was dead.
The driver, Willie, was thrown out of the driver’s seat, onto the ground, with only his trapped legs holding him in the car. He was critically injured. Jared was trapped in the left front passenger’s seat of the extensively damaged car. He had serious neck injuries and couldn’t be removed from the vehicle.
At the location of the crash, a party was taking place. Approximately 40 people were attending the party about 10 meters from where the car came to rest after the collision.
People from the party rushed to the aid the car occupants. It was dark and very difficult to locate the injured. They eventually located Jared in the damaged car as a fire broke out in the engine bay. The fire quickly spread to the tree.
Fearing that Jared would be burned alive in the wreck, party goers rushed to douse the flames with whatever they could find. This included buckets and even glasses. A chain gang was quickly formed between the car and a nearby swimming pool, resulting in the fire being kept under control until emergency services arrived. Their actions saved Jared’s life.
The fire service extinguished the fire upon their arrival and spent another hour cutting Jared out of the car. He was rushed to hospital along with Willie and Te Eru.
Richard Harmer died at the scene.
Four days after the crash, Jared’s brother, and the driver of the car, Willy, died as a result of his injuries. A blood test taken from Willy soon after the crash showed he was well over the legal alcohol limit to drive.
It is highly likely, due to the outcome of his actions on that day, and the fact he had four previous convictions for drink-driving, that Willy would have been charged with manslaughter after the crash.
Te Eru suffered serious head and right knee injuries. He spent three months in an induced coma on life support in ICU and a further three months in ICU once out of the coma.
Te Eru was then transferred into a ward for a year where he was monitored 24 hrs a day. He then underwent intensive rehabilitation for three months before transferring to Renworth Rehabilitation Centre for brain injuries, where he stayed for a year. Te Eru has severe balance and memory problems and will suffer the consequences of his injuries for the rest of his life.
Jared was flown to Christchurch ICU and was kept in an induced coma for six weeks. He was eventually transferred to the Burwood Spinal Unit, where he was ventilated and in traction. He stayed there for six months.
Jared received severe bruising around his spinal cord and three cracked vertebrae as a result of the crash. These injuries resulted in the substantial loss of feeling from his chest down and as a consequence, Jared cannot walk or even stand up and has limited control of his arms and hands.
Due to the severity of his injuries, Jared requires 24 hour a day nursing care to assist him in his day to day life. An average day starts with Jared being lifted from his bed by a hoist, his toiletry needs taken care of, then bathed and clothed before a session of physiotherapy is carried out and medication administered.
This process takes approximately three hours and is the same every day of his life. If Jared wants to be out of bed earlier than normal, he must organise the early start a week in advance with his caregivers, making a sudden change of plans impossible.
Since the crash, Jared has undergone extensive rehabilitation and fought a massive personal battle to gain sufficient strength and movement to allow him to live as normal a life as he possibly can.
After his crash, Jared initially didn’t recall any details of the collision that cost him the use of his legs and changed his life forever. However, about 12 months later, Jared’s memory slowly returned. With this recollection came the realisation that all the occupants of that car made extremely bad decisions that night … to drink, to drive, to speed, to not wear seatbelts, and to get into a car with a drunk driver.
Jared has agreed to share his story in the hope that lessons could be learnt from the bad decisions made the night of his crash.