On Wednesday, several of Mr Hocking’s family members quietly wept as Phongthaihong was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison, with a non-parole period of eight years and nine months.
He was also disqualified from driving for 12 years.
In sentencing, Judge Susan Pullen said ‘‘the impact on all the victims has been immense’’.
‘‘Mr Hocking, a young man with a bright future and loved by family, was killed by your actions that night. Their heartbreak and sorrow is palpable. They will never recover. Their lives will never be the same,’’ she said.
She said Mr Gulliford and Mr Moran’s lives had also been ‘‘forever adversely changed’’ as a result of their injuries.
‘‘It’s frustrating to police and the courts, the message just doesn’t seem to be getting out, in particular to young drivers, of the devastating effects of driving at speed and under the influence of alcohol,’’ she said.
‘‘Perhaps if students came to court and listened to hearings and saw the grief it caused, it may avoid some cases like yours in the future.
‘‘Speed, inexperience and alcohol are a diabolical combination.’’
The court heard Phongthaihong likely had a blood alcohol reading of between 0.209 and 0.229 – more than four times the legal limit – when he was behind the wheel in the early hours of April 12.
On the night of the crash, Phongthaihong was driving his sister’s grey Mazda. He went to the bottle shop several times throughout the night, buying beer and cans of pre-mixed bourbon.
About 11pm, he drove to the Sorrento skate park, where he kept falling off his skateboard because he was too drunk. He was heard saying, ‘‘I’m too f—ed up for this’’.
After doing burnouts in a supermarket carpark, he was filmed speeding on Point Nepean Road.
During the plea hearing, the court was played a 30-second Snapchat video which showed the speedometer climbing to 151km/h as loud electronic music played in the background, hours before the crash.
A nervous Mr Hocking could be heard saying, ‘‘hey, hey, hey’’ as the car sped up. Mr Hocking also sent a Snapchat photo to his girlfriend, showing him sitting in the front passenger seat, with the caption: ‘‘I’m gonna die.’’
In the moments before the crash at 1.15am, one of the passengers shouted for Mr Phongthaihong to watch out for the roundabout.
When police arrived, Mr Phongthaihong was conscious, smelt of alcohol and was slurring his words.
He told an officer at the scene: ‘‘It’s my fault, I’m going to jail.’’ Analysis of the scene found he would have been travelling at 117km/h in the seconds before he hit the roundabout, and 75km/h at the time of impact with the tree. It was a 50km/h zone.
One of the back seat passengers, Mr Gulliford, spent eight days on life support at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He underwent brain surgery, which required him to wear a helmet for six months.
He now has an acquired brain injury, has lost hearing in his right ear from a fractured ear drum and has almost completely lost vision in his right eye. Nerve damage means he struggles to move the right side of his face.
Mr Moran was on life support for several weeks, suffered from several broken ribs which punctured his lung, and had his spleen removed.
The court heard Phongthaihong has had extreme anxiety since high school, with periods of depression and has been diagnosed with PTSD. In a statement tendered to the court, his sister said he was a ‘‘considerate young man’’ who was devastated and heartbroken by the offending and was remorseful for his actions.
Judge Pullen accepted he was remorseful and said he would need to address his issues with alcohol if he was to successfully rehabilitate back into the community.
Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.