19 May 2024

Hamilton fatal crash drink-driver Jack Halliday ignored plea not to drive

3:40 pm on 19 May 2024

By Belinda Feek of NZ Herald

Rajesh and Ashima Prasad, parents of Sahil Prasad who was killed in a crash on State Highway 26 at Newstead on 21 July 2023. The property owner of the crash scene donated a small section of land to build a memorial for Prasad which his family and friends regularly visit.  New Zealand Herald photograph by Mike Scott

Rajesh and Ashima Prasad on State Highway 26 where their son Sahil Prasad was killed in a crash on 21 July 2023. Photo: Mike Scott

An apprentice diesel mechanic who had after-work drinks then got behind the wheel and crashed, killing a young man, had previously been convicted of drink driving in similar circumstances.

On both occasions, Jack Isaac Halliday shared a few drinks with his J Swap Contracting colleagues in their Matamata workshop.

While he was caught by police the first time, in March 2022, he went on to do the same thing again – except this time, he killed 24-year-old Sahil Prasad.

Now, Prasad's devastated family has been left to pick up the pieces.

They not only still struggle with losing their beloved son and brother, but have been left crippled financially with funeral costs and are now planning to move from the crash area, which is minutes from their home.

On the evening of 21 July 2023, Halliday, 26, finished work at 5.53pm and joined his workmates for drinks in the workshop.

CCTV footage showed he had five drinks before leaving in his work ute at 8.15pm to head to a pub in Matamata.

There, he met several workmates whom he had dinner with and drank "several" more handles and "at least" two whiskeys.

One of his co-workers, who was not drinking, was concerned Halliday was over the limit and suggested he stay at his place or another associate's, as he had done previously.

Ignoring those concerns, Halliday left the bar at 10.45pm and drove to Hamilton, opting to take the quieter roads.

Around this time, Prasad was travelling from Hamilton towards his home in Eureka, which he shared with family.

At 11.19pm, Halliday approached Newstead on State Highway 26, on the outskirts of Hamilton. The ute's GPS data tracked him travelling at, or just over, 100km/h in dry weather conditions.

Prasad continued heading east and was in a line of traffic when the vehicle in front of him took evasive action as Halliday's vehicle drifted across the centre line.

Missing the first vehicle, Halliday's ute collided with Prasad's vehicle.

As a result of the crash, Prasad suffered several brain and head injuries and died at the scene. His New Zealand resident visa arrived just days later.

Halliday was taken to Waikato Hospital with minor injuries and was discharged sometime later.

A blood sample taken from Halliday returned a blood alcohol level of 144mg per 100ml of blood. The legal limit is 50mg.

'I thought I was under the limit'

When spoken to by police, Halliday admitted drinking but said he believed he was under the limit.

As for the crash, he said he remembered "looking down and then looking up and then hitting the headlights" in front of him.

Halliday appeared in the Hamilton District Court this week, where he was supported by family and admitted a charge of drink driving causing Prasad's death.

He was remanded to reappear for sentencing in August.

'We're still waiting for him'

When speaking with NZME, Prasad's parents, Rajesh and Ashima, said Halliday's guilty plea meant nothing to them as they continue to mourn their son.

"He should have pleaded guilty a long time ago," said Rajesh.

"Nothing will bring my son back."

Rajesh said Halliday should have faced a more serious charge.

"What he did was not an accident. An accident is when something goes wrong with your vehicle, but drink driving is not an accident."

The couple had become nervous to drive since their son's death and Rajesh now did all the driving. "I'm scared of driving, and Ashima does not want to drive again."

Rajesh said his son had gone out on the night of his death to wish a friend a happy birthday. They hadd urged him to wait to leave until after midnight, but he wanted to get home and work on his vehicles.

Ashima said she, figurately, died that same night.

"To this day, my heart and eyes have been waiting to see him come home for a minute or two ... he was the life of my heart.

"I have so many questions, so much anger but I don't know how to express them."

As migrants, they left Fiji to build a home and a future.

"I really never expected that this country would take my child away from me."

The couple said the owner of the property where the crash occurred had generously given them space at the site to build a memorial dedicated to Sahil.

Ashima visited most days, and his friends visited on the 21st of each month.

Rajesh said his son always wore the biggest smile and was a self-taught mechanic who fixed all the vehicles they used on the dairy farm where they worked.

In their culture, the son was charged with looking after their parents when they got older, but now that would not happen as he was their only son.

"He had a lot of dreams for us," they said, which included buying their own family home.

Instead, they had been left about $30,000 in debt due to costs associated with his death, including his funeral and ongoing cultural memorial events.

Sahil Prasad is also survived by his sisters, Seenal, 28, and Shyla, 12.

- This story was originally published in the New Zealand Herald.