The mother of one of two motorcyclists killed in a Lindis
Pass crash on November 26 met the driver responsible
yesterday and hugged her after the woman's appearance in the
Alexandra District Court.
Chinese tourist Kejia Zheng (20), of Shaoxinl, pleaded guilty
to charges of driving carelessly, causing the death of Grant
John Roberts and Dennis Michael Pederson and driving
carelessly, causing injury to Laura Kate McIntosh and William
Vincent Ridley. She will be sentenced today.
Members of Mr Roberts' family, including two of his children,
his sisters and his mother, Valmai Crawford, of Geraldine,
were in court when Zheng appeared before Judge Stephen
O'Driscoll yesterday. Mrs Crawford read out a statement and
said the loss of her son had left a void ''which we will
never fill'' but his death was as the result of a ''tragic
accident that could've happened to anyone''.
Prosecutor Sergeant Ian Collin said Zheng was an exchange
student who had been studying in Australia and arrived in New
Zealand for a holiday the day before the crash. She rented a
Nissan Sunny car and travelled south on the Lindis Pass,
while a group of motorcyclists was travelling north at the
same time. The road was dry and the weather was fine. During
a series of bends, she drifted on to gravel at the side of
the road and lost control of the car, which slid sideways
across the centre line, colliding with a motorcyclist
travelling in the opposite direction, Sgt Collin said. The
motorcyclist was pushed into the steel barrier.
The car then moved into the path of a second motorcyclist,
who braked hard and the motorbike crashed on its side. Both
Mr Pederson and Mr Roberts were thrown several metres,
landing on grass. Both died at the scene.
Laura McIntosh, a pillion passenger, was also thrown several
metres, received serious injuries and remained in Dunedin
Hospital, Sgt Collin said. Another motorcyclist, William
Ridley, received leg injuries and was treated by ambulance
staff. Zheng had little recent driving experience but there
was no evidence of excessive speed and the motorcyclists had
not contributed to the crash in any way, he said.
Mr Ridley was being interviewed for a victim impact report
yesterday and there was no confirmation yet whether the
defendant's insurance would cover the cost of the wrecked
motorcycles - valued at $35,000 and $20,000. Defence counsel
Tim Cadogan said he believed Zheng's lack of driving
experience on southern New Zealand roads was a major factor
in the crash. She applied the brakes when she drifted into
the gravel and ''tragically at that exact same moment, they
were coming the other way''.
The defendant had two tertiary qualifications and had
enrolled for the equivalent to a master's degree in Shanghai.
She received a fractured skull and a broken hand in the crash
and was ''terrified'', believing she would go straight from
hospital to jail until the matter was resolved, as that was
what would happen in her country.
She had written to the victims, families and met Mr Roberts'
family at lunchtime yesterday, to apologise to them.
The family were the ''bravest and most compassionate people
I've ever had the privilege of meeting'', Mr Cadogan said.
He submitted a custodial sentence would be inappropriate.
Judge O'Driscoll delayed sentencing until today, so he could
consider Mr Ridley's victim impact report and receive
confirmation about the vehicle insurance.
Outside court, Mrs Crawford said her son was very much a
''family man'', as well as being passionate about motorbikes,
as a member of the Road Knights Motorcycle Club. He was a
much loved son, father and grandfather.