This is the victim impact statement that New Zealand father Duncan Woods read out to a Christchurch court this week as a judge weighed up sentencing for Ashley David Austin, whose vehicle lost control and slammed into a mother and two children, killing Duncan's four year old son, Nayan:
Ash, it's really hard to find the words to express the devastation that your actions have had on the lives of my family, friends and on me.
I am broken in every conceivable way. I am tormented by the prospect of having to live perhaps another 50 years.
I was not with my family when the car you were driving hit them, I was in the park opposite running. I saw the car there on my way home and I stayed on the other side of the road. I saw lots of people gathering around and figured the last thing that anybody needed was another rubbernecker.
I got home and not long after received a call from Emma.
I rushed to the hospital where I was greeted with the news of my four-year-old son's death. I walked into the next room to find my then six-year-old battered and broken. He was in a lot of pain and didn't know about his brother and his best friend. We didn't tell him because he had to focus on himself.
The next few hours I alternated between the room where my family were grieving and where Jacob was being treated. I had to switch from tears to smiles and back again. I had to talk with police, doctors, social workers, many others, all of whom were amazing. We had to make phone calls and try to remain composed.
At one stage that evening I was led to a corner of the hospital to visit Nayan. I could see his dead body covered in blood, bruised with grit in his teeth. The light in his eyes was gone, I was not allowed to pick him up or hold him and I really wanted to. He was not ours anymore, he was evidence to be investigated to determine the cause of death.
I had to plan, attend and speak at the funeral of my four-year-old son. These are things no father should endure. It's difficult to pick a coffin and have your son placed in it, carry him to a hole in the ground and place him there. The pain is immeasurable and unending and one we should not have had to experience.
Your decision to drive the way you did has changed the course of many lives. Nayan's is over. He will not build friendships, fall in love and have a family of his own. These are the unknown victims in my mind, whose life will be poorer for never getting the chance to meet him. My family have lost a brother, a cousin, a nephew, and a grandson and a great-grandson. My wife and I have lost our child.
Our house feels empty. I find myself gazing from Emma on the computer, perhaps to Jacob playing a game, I observe myself watching the television. We are in our own spaces, physically close yet feeling so isolated from each other. I find it hard to share my grief because it overwhelms me with such ferocity that I become unable to contain my emotions.
I look at our situation and I imagine Nayan there with us. He was the one who bridged the gap between us all, the glue that brought us together and bound us as a family. It feels like a part of all of us died that day.
I had to return to work and I am fortunate to have a workplace, colleagues and students who are amazing. They've supported me as much as anyone can expect, unfortunately what they cannot give me is the desire and joy I once found in my work. As a teacher these are essentials to be good at what you do.
I worked hard in my job and believed I could be part of something that would revolutionise the delivery of education and in the process change the world for the better. I had grand dreams and I believed that I was going to achieve them.
These dreams are now dead to me and everything seems so pointless.
The world I worked for is gone and I am left with nothing but regret and self-loathing for the mess I made of the priorities in my life.
My last moments with Nayan involved taking a computer from him so I could catch an early bus to get to work. His last interaction with me was him in tears and refusing to speak to me.
I told him I loved him as I did every day when I left for work. He and Jacob would often wave to me from the window. On that day they never appeared. I can only guess it was because they were still upset with me for leaving. I never saw him alive again and didn't get the chance to hold him, walk with him, talk with him and play with him again. I am tortured by this and would have given everything to have taken the next bus. At least I would have known his last time with me was happy.
I soldier on in life, painting a false smile and pretending to laugh. I know that Jacob deserves to have a good life and accept that my responsibility to him is not ended. I draw strength from him, and force myself from each moment to engage in life so he will not be damaged like I am, and can continue to thrive. I have a responsibility and so I carry on, even though sometimes I wish I didn't have to.
Ash, I feel that you have responsibility, just as I do, to move forward in life. You can't put this right, there is no justice in this situation. You are in control of the choices you make from now on and I hope you honour the spirit of my boy. He was such an incredibly caring and giving individual. I hope you make a positive impact on the lives of others in the community. Nayan would have. You owe that to him.
I was not at the accident and I did not witness it, but from what Emma has said to me, you were there with her trying to help my family. You did not run and I know you and your family have suffered terribly too.
I know your remorse is genuine and I appreciate that after making the mistakes you did, you have done all that you can to help us. It speaks to your character. Only you know the truth of your actions that night. It's not for me to speculate or to judge you. I believe that regardless of the motivation behind the decision you made to drive that way, that you in no way intended to cause the tragedy that unfolded.
I know you did not intentionally set out to injure and to kill that night. I accept that your actions had terrible consequences, but I can see beyond the pain and tragedy and I know that it does not mean you are a bad person.
In fact, I believe the opposite, I believe you are a good caring man who's made a terrible mistake, and it's for that reason that I forgive you.
I don't want you to go to prison or be sentenced to home detention. I want no form of monetary reparation from you.
There's no just outcome for me that any imposed sentence could bring. If anything it would just cause me more pain. I don't believe you represent a threat to our community and I can see no benefit in punishing you.
I am sure that living with the weight of the death of a child on your conscience is the most brutal punishment that exists.
If you were to do community service I would like it to be connected to people and making a genuine difference. I think that children like Nayan would gravitate to you and I would love to see you brighten their lives.
It's been an agonising decision over whether I would speak or not today. Ultimately my motivation for doing this is to give voice to my son. I try to imagine what Nayan would say were he here with us.
I think he would probably have tuned into the pain we are feeling and tried to take that away. I can imagine him lifting his shirt to show his tummy and running around the room laughing, checking to make sure we were all laughing with him. He would maybe stop and pull out a few dance moves.
What would Nayan say? I struggle with this. I imagine he would probably apologise to us all for causing such pain, see our distress and try and make it better. He would do this all the time with me, this was just the way he was. So caring and so loving and so giving. He was a beautiful boy.
h/t CHristchurch Press