A man who crashed over Burns Point Ferry and into the Richmond River while drunk has faced court.
A man who crashed over Burns Point Ferry and into the Richmond River while drunk has faced court. Jerad Williams

Drunk driver got airborne after crashing into Ballina ferry

A DRINK-DRIVER whose car became airborne before he crashed into the Richmond River has been sentenced.

Matthew Rath, 23, had to be rescued by Ballina's ferrymaster after he drove his car onto the Burns Point Ferry, then plunged into the river, shortly after midnight on April 12 this year.

The West Ballina man pleaded guilty to his charges of negligent driving and high-range drink-driving when he earlier faced court in July.

Rath faced Ballina Local Court for sentencing, supported by his father, on Thursday.

According to court documents, Rath was the sole occupant of the blue Ford Fiesta he was driving south on Burns Point Ferry Road the night of the incident.

He struck the ferry at such speed the car became airborne and while Rath managed to escape the vehicle, the ferrymaster threw him a flotation device and assisted him to shore.

The car was seen floating upstream and later sank.

Rath returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.191 after the crash and told police he'd consumed 13 Tiger beers at a friend's house.

According to court documents, he was "visibly upset" and said: "I never should have driven".

In court, his solicitor Vince Boss said his client was fortunate there was no vessel in the river in front of the ferry at the time.

He told the court Rath had been riding his bicycle to his job at McDonald's since the crash.

Mr Boss asked Magistrate Karen Stafford to consider a bond.

The court heard Rath had been assessed as suitable for community service work.

"My view is that it's a good opportunity for you to put something back into the community just to reflect the harm done to the community by high range drink-driving," Ms Stafford said.

"The message must get through to this community ... if you're going to drink, you can't drive."

She convicted Rath of each offence, fined him $800 and gave him a 12-month community corrections order.

He will also be required to complete 100 hours of community service work and will be subject to an interlock order for two years.

Rath was disqualified from driving for six months, backdated to April.