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Sisters' deaths could have been avoided

11:00 Thu Mar 7 2013

The deaths of two teenage sisters in a car crash near Tauranga on Christmas Day 2011 could have been avoided, a court has heard.

Three relatives, including the mother of the girls, are on trial at the High Court in Hamilton for the deaths of Merepeka Morehu-Clark, 14 and Brooklyn Morehu-Clark, 13.

Hetaraka Hikurangi Reihana, 21, Haki Tepuere Davey, 18, and mother Phillippa Vanessa Morehu, 37, have each pleaded not guilty to two charges of manslaughter over the fatal crash.

The sisters died after the car Reihana was driving collided with a ute on Welcome Bay Road.

"They were 13 and 14 at the time their lives ended in this totally avoidable way," crown prosecutor Greg Hollister-Jones told the court.

Reihana, Davey and Morehu had been drinking at a home in Welcome Bay on Christmas Day 2011, before deciding to go to their family urupa, he said.

Mr Hollister-Jones said there was talk of racing to the cemetery to see who would get there first, the New Zealand Herald reports.

"This was alcohol-fuelled madness, all were unlicensed and were deliberately racing each other at high and reckless speeds in unsafe vehicles on a winding road," Mr Hollister-Jones said.

The trial before Justice Murray Gilbert is set down for three weeks.