As Sharon Jackson sat in the morgue with her husband’s body, she clung to it tightly, wanting to feel his warmth one last time.
Her husband was empathetic. A man with plans. He had a list of things he wanted to achieve in the coming years, including going fishing and “getting his mojo” back.
But Grant Jackson never got to do any of those things.
His death on August 5, 2015 was unexpected, caused by injuries suffered in a head-on crash on State Highway 57, just a few kilometres away from their home when a car ploughed into his truck.
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Gary Drew was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court on Thursday to 26 months’ jail for his role in the crash. He was disqualified from driving for three years after pleading guilty to driving dangerously causing death and driving dangerously causing injury.
When Sharon Jackson spoke in court, she couldn’t hide the anger she felt towards Drew for taking her husband of 35 years away from her.
Jackson and her family believed Drew showed no remorse for his actions and even though talking about what happened was tough, she wanted her husband to have the respect he deserved.
“To some people involved in this case… he’s just a name on a piece of paper, faceless, non-existent, no more important than some stolen item. Yet what was stolen was his life.”
Jackson rushed to the scene of the crash to try and see her husband.
Instead, she was turned away by emergency services and told to head to Wellington, where he was flown for emergency treatment.
On arrival in the capital, she was shattered to learn her husband was gone.
Jackson was taken to the morgue to say goodbye. “His body was still warm so I held him as he slowly left. The next time I would touch him he would be as cold as stone.”
The injuries he suffered were extensive – two broken legs, one almost severed right through, two broken arms, nine broken ribs and a punctured lung. He was also partially scalped.
But even with all of those injuries, he initially lived and tried to make things easier for the ambulance staff treating him.
This was just the kind of person he was and Jackson was struggling without him.
“Now, I’m just angry I’m doing this alone, without Grant. It’s been like climbing Mt Everest with minimal gear and no map.”
Through tears daughter Crystal Jackson, 26, said she and her three sisters had the opportunity stolen from them to ever have their dad walk them down the aisle. “There is no parole, no pardon for me and my family. My dad is gone.
“There will be no more texts or phone calls to make sure we are safe. No more, ‘bye kiddo, be safe’ when we’re leaving.”
A court summary says Drew declined to be formally interviewed by police. He said: “I can’t believe the witnesses are saying I’m at fault. The truck crossed the centreline.”
Defence lawyer Paul Murray said Drew was remorseful and had suffered injuries in the crash.
Judge Lance Rowe said the summary showed Drew had overtaken a car, which was travelling at the speed limit, at a point where there was a clear risk.
“This was a very dangerous manoeuvre and would have been obviously dangerous at the time.”
This caused a head-on collision with Jackson’s truck, with Rowe stating neither vehicle had time to react, or anywhere to go to avoid the crash.
Since the crash, Drew had been fined many times before, including once for failing to keep left on the road, in November, 2016.
Jackson’s family gasped as that news was read.
Throughout the hearing, Drew looked at the ground and once the verdict was handed down he picked up his orange backpack and headed to the cells.