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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Man drives into river

A magistrate has told a Shepparton man he was lucky he did not kill his passengers after driving into the Goulburn River while drink driving.

FIONA BROOM November 20, 2012 4:20am

A Shepparton man told police ‘‘I just f**ked up’’ after he drove a car with two passengers into the Goulburn River while more than twice the legal alcohol limit.

Magistrate John Murphy told Nicholas Ponting, 27, he was lucky he was not faced with having caused the deaths of his passengers after Mr Ponting pleaded guilty to charges including drink-driving and driving without a licence.

Shepparton Magistrates’ Court yesterday heard on April 28 Mr Ponting and two women parked on Tom Collins Dve, behind Victoria Park Lake, about 11pm.

He decided to leave 10 minutes later.

But when he put the car into gear and attempted to drive away, he launched backwards into the river, the court heard.

Mr Ponting and his passengers managed to swim to safety, but the blue Holden Commodore sank.

A short while later police received calls Mr Ponting was yelling and kicking fences along nearby Hayes St.

When police approached the three people, they noticed they were soaking wet, while Mr Ponting appeared unsteady on his feet and smelt of alcohol, the court heard.

Mr Ponting, a father of two, repeatedly told police he’d ‘‘done wrong’’.

The court heard he told police he had never had a driver’s licence and he had been drinking, returning a blood alcohol reading of 0.122.

‘‘He’s just lucky he could swim and his passengers could swim or he’d be up for culpable driving,’’ Mr Murphy said.

Solicitor Luke Slater said his client had been at a friend’s place earlier in the evening with several other people who were drinking.

Mr Ponting had borrowed his friend’s car, which was unregistered with number plates not registered to the car, so he could go out and buy more alcohol for everyone, Mr Slater said.

He said Mr Ponting was not taking depression medication at the time and he tended to drink more when he was not taking medication.

He said his client was immediately remorseful of his actions and took police to the river to explain what happened.

Mr Ponting was convicted and fined $1500 and disqualified from driving for 13 months.

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