Family reaches out to tourist driver in fatal crash

Abigail Hone. Photo / supplied
Abigail Hone. Photo / supplied
The family of a young girl killed in a crash along with two other people say the Dutch tourist accused of causing the carnage is as much a victim as those who died.

Abigail Hone, 12, was killed alongside her friend Ella Summerfield, 12, and Ella's mum Sally, 49, in a crash at Rakaia, 67km southwest of Christchurch, on Saturday.

Mrs Summerfield's husband Shane, who was driving, was seriously injured.

A 52-year-old Dutch man will appear in Christchurch District Court today charged with three counts of careless use of a vehicle causing death and one charge of careless use of a vehicle causing injury.

Yesterday, Abi Hone's family offered an olive branch to the man.

"They certainly feel for him and what he's going through," Hone family spokesman Darren Wright said of Abi's parents Lucy and Trevor.

"At the end of the day we've all had lapses of judgment. Unfortunately this one had tragic consequences." The Hones thought the tourist was "just as much a victim" in what happened in an area where the roads were narrow and the cross-road intersections difficult.

The Summerfield family, from Sumner in Christchurch, were taking Abi with them to the Ohau ski area for the long weekend.

Ella's older brother Sam, along with Abi's two older brothers, were said to be devastated at losing their "beautiful little sisters", Mr Wright said.

"The Hones are a family that are torn apart by this ... there's two families here that have been devastated by this. The Sumner community has wrapped its arms around them, wanting to help them get through it." It was too early for the families to finalise funeral arrangements but today Sumner School, which the girls had previously attended, would offer a place of remembrance and counselling.

Wyn Mossman, a co-director with Mr Summerfield of Ferrymead Dental Clinic, said Mrs Summerfield, Ella and Abi had had a lot to live for.

"They're just gorgeous people from great families who got involved thoroughly with the community," he said.

"That's why it's so tough.

Mr Summerfield is in a serious but stable condition in Christchurch Hospital.

It is understood he is conscious and aware of what had happened.

The crash, and another fatality involving a tourist this Queen's Birthday long weekend, has ignited debate on whether foreigners should be better educated before they are allowed on New Zealand roads.

Prime Minister John Key, also the Tourism Minister, said yesterday he did not believe changes were needed to current laws or testing requirements.

"If you look at the accident rate of tourists who come and drive in New Zealand versus New Zealanders themselves, it's pretty consistent. They're about the same accident rate per capita. So I don't think that's a big issue."

Dog and Lemon car review editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, a road safety campaigner, said the Government needed to make it much harder to get behind the wheel of a rental car and he called for a ban on travellers from renting cars until they had passed an online driving test.

Fewer than 2 per cent of fatal crashes involve foreign drivers and police Assistant Commissioner of road policing Dave Cliff pointed to a number of initiatives in place to make sure tourists were educated about New Zealand road rules.

"There's an awful lot of information for people. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." He said police were "hugely disappointed" at this year's holiday-weekend road toll, particularly after a high profile "make it to Monday" safety campaign.

Mr Cliff said police were out in force on traffic hot spots as people returned from their breaks.

The official holiday period, which began at 4pm on Friday, ended at 6am today, with the toll at five.

Last year there were no deaths during the same holdiay period.

On Friday night South Auckland woman Robyn Derrick, 52, was killed in a collision with a campervan driven by a German tourist and said by police to have crossed the centre line on State Highway 25 on the Coromandel Peninsula.

On Saturday Adrian Ihaka, 36, died when he crashed into a power pole just 600 metres from the Eketahuna Rugby Club, which he left after an apparent fight with his partner.

- Jimmy Ellingham, APNZ

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