The drunk driver who caused a life-changing crash that killed mother-to-be Katherine Hoang and her teenage relative, leaving a city in mourning, wishes he had died instead.
Bronko Hoang was supervising his 17-year-old relative as she drove along the Northern Rd in Sydney’s west with his “fun-loving” wife Ms Hoang, heavily pregnant with twins, in the back seat.
Coming the other way on September 27, 2018 was unlicensed Richard Moananu, behind the wheel after hours of drinking and cutting a path of destruction at 100km/h.
His Mazda 3 veered onto the wrong side of the road at Orchard Hills and smashed into the Nissan Tiida carrying the Hoangs, killing Katherine, 23, her unborn children and the teenage girl.
Mr Hoang would wake from a coma in October, with nurses forced to tie him down as he screamed in agony at discovering his wife, relative and the twins had died. He had missed their funerals.
Two years and 11 days since the crash Moananu, 31, sat before an emotion-charged sentence hearing at Penrith District Court as he faces a lengthy stint in jail for causing the devastating collision.
Dressed in a black suit, the father-of-four had pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and one of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.
“I wish it was me who died that day, not them,” he said in the witness box on Thursday.
Earlier Mr Hoang, 27, stared down Moananu as he read out his victim impact statement, saying the crash had shown him how “evil” and “sinister” humans can be.
“Today I question who’s really being punished,” he said.
“While you sit behind bars … we are surrounded by the haunting memories of what happened.”
The court heard Kiwi-born Moananu blew a blood alcohol reading of 0.204 at the Orchard Hills crash scene – a level four times the legal limit – and would later test positive for illicit drugs.
Mr Hoang said the driver had “decided to play God” on the day he grabbed his car keys and tore through the western suburbs, seemingly not caring if he lived or died.
“My body is full of scars,” he said. “It is my constant reminder of my previous life and what I could have had.”
Mr Hoang pledged to one day be a husband and father again and extended an olive branch by saying he wanted to meet with Moananu to discuss their shared demons.
“Please after your time served, please don’t make the same mistakes,” he said. “I am resilient, are you?”
His mother, Thi Bach Yen Duong, said the incident had left a “gaping hole” in her life.
“My life before the accident was full of joy and excitement,” she said. “After the accident my life has become empty, quiet and lonely.”
Ms Hoang’s mother Perfecta Gordon said she felt “cheated” her daughter, who was “full of happiness” and just a week away from giving birth, had been taken away forever.
“She would have been a good mum and a good wife,” she said. “Life will never be the same again, and I will be carrying this pain for as long as I live.”
He still has no memory of the incident but said the hurt he had caused kept him awake every night.
Hearing the Hoang and Gordon families’ statements on Thursday “killed me inside”, he said.
“I never meant to heart anyone,” he said. “I wish more than anything if I could take it back I would.
“I’m so sorry, Bronko, to you and your family.”
The court heard Moananu was raised in a households stricken by alcohol-related violence and gambling, events that had long-lasting effects on his mental health.
“I was too ashamed to go seek help,” he said.
His barrister Tony Evers said although the incident was “catastrophic … all cases of manslaughter are” he argued his client’s actions were not the worst of their kind.
Moananu will be sentenced on November 5.
Originally published as ‘Wish it was me’: Driver who killed woman