NZ Woman's Weekly

Sole survivor speaks: ‘I still feel guilty’

When Claire Badger’s young niece and nephews are old enough to drive, she’s going to sit them down and show them a photo of a car that has been mangled beyond recognition. It’s a picture of the vehicle she miraculously walked away from after it hit a power pole and then a tree. The three other people in the car – including the driver, who was drunk – were not so lucky. They all lost their lives.

“I’m going to make them have a long, hard look at it,” says Claire (26). “I want them to know why they shouldn’t drink and drive or get in a car with someone who has been drinking. This is what can happen.”

Claire, from Gisborne, wants to speak out about what has happened to her and her friends to help get the message across about the devastation drink-driving can cause. “People think it won’t happen to them, but it can. I hope I can make even one person stop and think before they get in a car.”

Claire has always been staunchly against drink-driving. She says she would never knowingly get into a car with a driver who has had a few too many, but what happened that Saturday night last July was beyond her control.

Claire Badger

The police ‘couldn’t believe anyone survived’ the crash, says Claire, calling it a miracle

The beauty therapist, who recently left her job to train as a nurse, was at a friend’s house with a group of people – including boyfriend Peter Bunyan and mum-of-three Holly Gunn, who was doing the nursing course with her.

Along with Peter’s friend Dylan Kingi, they wanted to go onto another party, but none of them were sober enough to drive. However, a sober driver had been arranged to come and drive Peter’s car for them, so Claire, Holly and Peter got in it, ready to go.

“Then Dylan got in the driver’s seat and we said, ‘Come on, let [the sober person] drive.’ But he refused. He said he was all right, and before we could stop him he started the car and took off.”

Dylan, who had previous drink-driving convictions, was speeding “stupidly fast”, says Claire and although she begged him to pull over, he refused. Then they drove past a police car, which put its lights on and went after them.

“I thought, ‘Oh, thank God for the police, he’ll have to stop,’” she says. “Instead, he just floored it and I realised he was doing a runner. I was so scared. I was pleading with him to stop, but there was no reasoning with him. He thought he was in control.”

They lost the police car and Claire estimates they were doing well over 100km/h when they came to a corner on Nelson Rd, with a 50km/h sign. “I remember the wheels of the car coming off the road and thinking, ‘Oh f***.’ That was it. The next thing I knew there was a nurse leaning over me asking if I knew what had happened.”

Claire, who was sitting behind the driver, has no recollection of the immediate aftermath of the crash, other than the sound of the car’s horn going nonstop. The police – who arrived about a minute after the car hit the power pole, shattering it into three pieces – have since told her they were amazed to see her climbing out of the car.

Claire had no idea Dylan (28), Peter (27) and Holly (25) had all been killed until a doctor broke the terrible news. “I completely lost it – I was howling. It was the lowest point of my life.”

Claire and Peter had been friends for years, but had only been a couple for five months. “He had told his mum the week before that he thought I was ‘the one’, and I loved him too,” says Claire.

Peter, who worked in a vegetable nursery, was a funny and friendly guy who enjoyed his work and was good at it. He loved his family and would go out of his way to help people. “It’s not often that you meet someone who touches your soul like that,” says Claire. “Being around him made me want to be a better person.”

Holly, meanwhile, was bubbly and outgoing, “a cool chick”. “She had three beautiful kids and was a great mother,” says Claire. “Now, they don’t have a mum any more.”

The 26-year-old received many get-well cards from well-wishers after the crash

Dylan’s two children are also now fatherless. Claire suffered whiplash and bruising, and six weeks after the crash, she discovered she had been walking around on a broken leg, as well as torn ligaments in her ankle.

“I felt guilty that I was alive,” she says. “Why me? Why am I still here when they aren’t?” She ended up pulling out of the nursing course – which she had been passing with flying colours – because it was too much for her. She’s just returned to working as a beauty therapist and doesn’t know what the future holds.

“I wish we could have stopped Dylan [from driving]. I know he didn’t want to kill anyone. He would have expected to make it around that corner. “What should have just been a normal Saturday night out changed everything – forever.”

7 Responses to “Sole survivor speaks: ‘I still feel guilty’”

  1. Anniefw Mar 22 2013, 11:31am

    It’s a bit late now to lay the blame. A resonsible sober person should have taken the keys in the first place. I just feel so sorry for all the family and friends of all the people concerned.
    I pray that Our Lords is able to give you some confort in this absolutely tragic time.
    We are all praying for you and God bless you all.

  2. love4ever Mar 20 2013, 2:19pm

    Yes my son Dylan is responsible for the deaths and injury’s to everyone in that car. We except and have never denied that sad fact, but you have to understand he is not here to speak for him self. but as his mother and elder sibling who were witnesses to events right up to the police taking chase.We can not and will not see a false portrayal of him in print with out defending him. Some basic facts are everybody was in that car “willingly” “everybody” had the “time and choice” to get out. Both Clair and Pete Two and a half months prior had been in a car with Dylan while all were intoxicated and had a minor accident. So going into detail should be the whole facts and not an attack on one.i do not deny Dylan was the driver and chose not to stop. But will not hold back on the facts and knowledge of the incident that happened that night. all occupants had a choice. they all chose to get into the car with a driver under the influence.As a surviving passenger of d.i.c my self with life changing injury’s that can never be healed take full responsibility for putting my self in that car and have never once put blame on the driver and live with my choice everyday. Kia Kaha to all concerned go’s without saying xxx. But an extra Kia Kaha to Courtney the only witness to have had not one drink that night and can relay events word for word like it was yesterday and will never ever forget it (the sober driver that was called, Dylan’s sister). Shadei (Dylan’s youngest sister) and his two children who now because of this portrayal are having to listen to people calling their brother and father a monster based on wrongful facts. the truth is tragic enough without these false accusations and outright lies.We have no want to hurt anybody anymore than we are already hurting. But a false portrayal of Dylan continues. Courtney with my support will relay all facts as Clair previously knew.Clair had her right to speak as you mentioned as do we. Why did Dylan have the keys? Why did Dylan have to stop Pete? Who and what was Pete trying to get away from? Courtney and my anger in this reply has been 100 % contained. if anyone wants to hide our right of reply then we have a magazine waiting to go to print with our side. the truth will come out!! Kia Kaha to all who were there that day and fateful night!

  3. KiaKaha Mar 15 2013, 11:25am

    I think that regardless of who was driving the fact is at the end of the day when you hop into the drivers seat of a motor vehicle you are responsible for the way you handle that vehicle. Laws were broken by the driver and unfortunately he has paid the ultimate price of not only killing himself but also killing others and leaving behind all of this hurt. That is the hard truth and everyone needs to accept it. People need to stop pointing at Claire and giving her a hard time about her recollection of events that night, Im sure if they could turn back time they would have done things differently most certainly stopped Dylan from driving, they would have put belts on or may have just called a taxi… Having Claire open up and share all of this is an eye opener, people don’t learn or listen when told “if you do this, this could happen to you.” here is a real life survivor who is wanting to help prevent this from happening again so has got down into detail how that night and situation panned out. Sympathy goes out to family and friends of each victim sorry for your loss. And to Claire all the best for the future Kia Kaha!

  4. tarl1ng Feb 21 2013, 9:29pm

    Was this interview published for money?Is the focus on educating or blaming? I feel for the families that are still mourning while the only LUCKY SURVIVOR is pointing finger!! You would have expected a write up from those who LOST a family member!! At the end of the day, everybody was under the influence of alcohol and were all silly enough to get in the car!

  5. onelove Feb 16 2013, 3:28pm


  6. SADD Feb 16 2013, 9:13am

    Sounds like the driver took off in a hurry and they had no chance to get out of the car or take the keys away from him. It would have been a terrifying ride for all of them and they have now paid the ultimate price, all because the driver refused to stop and take the consequences for his actions. His actions would have impacted on a lot of people, all the families involved, friends, friends of friends plus the emergency services that would of had to deal with the aftermath of the crash. None of their lives will ever be the same again, all because a drunk driver thought he was the man.
    I wish the penalties were harder for drunk drivers and they were never given the option of getting behind the wheel again.

  7. charlotterose1963 Feb 7 2013, 12:37pm

    I find it hArd to believe that not one of those three other individuals in the car didn’t try and get out of the car as soon as the convicted drink driver got behind the wheel. The least one of them could have done was take the keys out of the ignition before Dylan drove away or at least put their seat belts on.

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