Drunk driver who killed friend jailed

Stock image.
Stock image.

A YOUNG man who was drunk when he rolled his ute on a dark West Australian country road, killing his 18-year-old friend, has been jailed for one year.

Ashley Charles Vincent, 21, had a calculated blood alcohol reading of about 0.146 when he rolled his vehicle down a steep embankment in Dwellingup in April last year, flinging Matthew Alexander Pontre from the rear tray.

Mr Pontre was found five metres from where the ute came to rest and died at the scene.

Vincent has some recollection of the night, including the impact, but cannot recall why Mr Pontre and another friend got into the rear tray while he put on his seat belt in the cab.

Vincent, a trained life guard, applied CPR to Mr Pontre in vain while the other friend ran back to a camp for help.

“Your driving on the night was more than simple carelessness and inattention,” Judge Ronald Birmingham said.

“The message needs to be clearly understood: If you drink and drive … and death or injury results, you will go to jail.”

He said he was confident Vincent, a geophysics student who had excellent antecedents and a previously unblemished record, was unquestionably remorseful.

During sentencing submissions in July, defence counsel Sam Vandongen said his client had been affected so deeply by his friend’s death, he’d thought about taking his own life “to provide some measure of comfort” to Mr Pontre’s family.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone quite so distraught in this situation,” the lawyer said.

At that hearing, Mr Pontre’s mother wept as she read out her victim impact statement, anguished her son had died “in the dirt”.

“I judge a person by his actions and his actions killed my son,” she concluded, looking at Vincent.

Vincent was sentenced in the District Court of WA on Wednesday to three years and four months imprisonment, but must serve 12 months, with the remainder to be suspended.

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