The man who had been drinking alcohol and taking methamphetamine while driving his car before crashing and killing his passenger has been convicted in the Supreme Court.
Siuta Tāufa pleaded not guilty to his charge of dangerous driving causing death. He changed his plea to his second charge of possessing 0.08 gram of methamphetamine to guilty.
The court was told that at about 11.30pm on the night of July 3, 2021, Tāufa drove his car, with Uikilifi Lapu’aho sitting in the left front passenger seat, from Vaini to Tatakamotonga where Lapu’aho bought a bottle of liquor. They mixed the alcohol and drank it while returning to Vaini.
It was close to midnight by then and the accused drove very fast to try and get home before the lock-down curfew at 12 midnight occurred, the court judgement said.
When they got to the fork in the road, that is, of Taufa’āhau Road on which they were travelling, and Tuku’aho Road, at the end of the village of Malapo towards Vainī, the accused lost control of the car. The car swerved to the right side of Taufa’āhau Road and hit a power pole on that side of the road with its left side, where Lapu’aho was sitting at the front passenger seat. The car bounced off it and rested about two meters from the post.
The sound of the crash was heard by a prison warden at Hu’atolitoli prison across the road some 200 meters away and he went over and found both occupants of the car unconscious.
The warden alerted the Vaini police on his phone before they arrived at the scene.
Both Tāufa and Lapu’aho were rushed to Vaiola Hospital before Lapu’aho died at 2am in the morning.
Illicit drugs and cash
The police found a black plastic bag wrapped in some fabric in the boot of the car. Inside the plastic bag was a see-through plastic bag and inside that bag were $1776 in cash, 47 empty packs and a bottle in which two packs of methamphetamine were found.
A statement by Tāufa was read in court. He was apologetic and said : “How I feel about this charge I feel really repentant at what has happened. And I feel sorry for the one who has died. Because I did not intend that anything like that would happen.”
Justice Niu said: “I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused drove his car at a speed and in a manner which in the circumstances were dangerous to the public and that it caused the death of the passenger in the car, Uikilifi Lapu’aho.
“Accordingly, I find that the accused, Siuta Taufa, is guilty of the offence of dangerous driving causing death with which he is charged in count 1 of his indictment and I convict him of that.
I also confirm that I have convicted the accused, Siuta Taufa, of the offence of possessing 0.08 gram of methamphetamine, with which he is charged in count 2 of his indictment”.