Injured victim footing the cost

Trisha Nolan (53) of Okuru, South Westland, with her damaged car and damaged feet. Photo by Mark Price.
Trisha Nolan (53) of Okuru, South Westland, with her damaged car and damaged feet. Photo by Mark Price.
Trisha Nolan has made herself a new pair of boots.

They are parked in the porch of her farm cottage next to the Okuru River.

Made from an old canvas horse cover and ''binder twine'', her new boots are designed to keep the South Westland mud off the hospital-issue surgical boots she will be confined to for the next month or more.

All laced up, Mrs Nolan hobbles out into the backyard to show the Otago Daily Times her smashed-up car.

It, along, with her broken feet, her broken ribs, her broken reading glasses, the ringing in her ears and her medical bills, are the legacy of a head-on crash she had near Makarora on March 18.

The driver of the other car was Danish tourist and resident of China Kurt Joergensen (57).

Ten days after the crash, he admitted in the Dunedin District Court he crossed the centre line on a bend and hit Mrs Nolan's car head-on.

His own car, a rental, then plunged over a steep bank.

Judge Kevin Phillips convicted him on two charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury and accepted Mrs Nolan had suffered $7755.93 of financial damage.

Judge Phillips gave Joergensen four days to return to the court with the money.

But on pay day - April 1 - Joergensen did not show.

An arrest warrant was issued, but too late.

Mrs Nolan: ''[The police] rang me up and they said we've got bad news ... and then they said he'd skipped the country.

''Obviously I was quite upset.

''I'm pretty devastated.''

She has a clear recollection of the crash - the car approaching, seeing it cross the centre line, thinking it had time to correct, then a view through her windscreen of nothing but the approaching car, and the explosion of her car's airbags.

While Mrs Nolan is back on her feet, her ribs are ''giving me gyp'', making it hard to sleep and hard to move around.

She cannot ride her horse or her quad bike around her farm, she cannot work on her sphagnum moss business and she cannot do her traffic-control job at road works on the Haast Pass.

''But never mind,'' she says, ''it's just something that's got to be dealt with, I guess.''

Joergensen's failure to pay has left her with plenty to do - working out how she might replace the car she had owned for just nine days.

She had third-party insurance but not full cover.

Her emails and phone calls bore fruit yesterday, the rental car company that owned Joergensen's car emailing to say it would pay her $4500 plus salvage costs.

But with the excess on her glasses and the things not covered by ACC - the call-out of a doctor in Wanaka, the use of her ''moon boots'', her first week of lost wages and 20% of her wages for the six to eight weeks she cannot work - Mrs Nolan believes she is still out of pocket $2500.

Joergensen's only liability was the reparation. The Government paid for emergency crews at the crash scene and the helicopter flight to Dunedin Hospital for Joergensen and his wife and passenger Sin Kam Isabella Kong.

Mrs Kong's treatment in hospital for a broken arm, compression fracture to her lower spine and fractured breastbone was also at no cost to the couple.

The ODT understands her hospitalisation was considered to be one reason why Joergensen was not considered a ''flight risk''. However, relieving Police Area Commander Inspector Jason Guthrie told the ODT on Thursday police ''believe'' both had left the country.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman told the ODT that like anyone - tourist or New Zealander - there was nothing to stop Joergensen leaving the country while their case was adjourned.

''People are remanded at large all the time for all sorts of reasons and most of the time they turn up, and when they don't turn up, as in this case, we issue a warrant.''

An option for the judge, if he thought Joergensen was a flight risk, would have been to have held his passport.

If Joergensen flew home, then he is in China and likely to face arrest only if he returns to New Zealand.

- mark.price@odt.co.nz