Tourist to pay $10,000 reparation

A Chinese tourist's inexperience in driving on New Zealand roads led to a crash which killed two motorcyclists in the Lindis Pass, a judge said yesterday, ordering the woman to pay $10,000 emotional harm reparation to the victims and their families.

Kejia Zheng (20), a student, of Shaoxinl, was sentenced in the Alexandra District Court on four charges arising from the crash.

She had admitted driving carelessly, causing the death of Grant John Roberts, of Timaru, and Dennis Michael Pederson, of Tauranga, and driving carelessly, causing injury to Laura Kate McIntosh and William Vincent Ridley, at Tarras on November 26.

As well as ordering Zheng to pay emotional harm reparation, Judge Stephen O'Driscoll disqualified her from driving for two years.

'' ... the crash was caused through your inexperience both generally and specifically on New Zealand roads. It's not suggested that there were any other contributing factors,'' he said.

Zheng had rented a car while on holiday in the country. Driving through the Lindis Pass, she drifted on to the gravel on the left hand side of the road and then lost control of the vehicle, when a group of motorcyclists were on the same stretch of road, travelling in the opposite direction. Her car slid sideways, hitting Mr Pederson and pushing him into the steel barrier and then sliding into the path of Mr Roberts.

Mr Ridley braked hard and his motorbike slid across the road. Both Mr Pederson and Mr Roberts were thrown several metres and died at the scene. Ms McIntosh, a passenger on Mr Roberts' motorbike, was also thrown off the bike and received serious injuries. She remained in Dunedin Hospital. Mr Ridley received leg injuries and was treated by St John ambulance staff.

Judge O'Driscoll said there was no suggestion Zheng was speeding or that the motorcyclists had contributed to the crash in any way.

He had victim impact reports from Mr Pederson's widow, from Ms McIntosh, who was Mr Roberts' partner, from one of Mr Roberts' sisters and his mother, Valmai Crawford, of Geraldine.

''They all talk about their loss, their emotions, their pain and grief and also have concerns about the future, in particular Ms McIntosh, who will have months, if not years of rehabilitation as a result of the crash.''

He was impressed Zheng met Mr Roberts' family on Wednesday to express her sorrow and remorse - ''that was a brave thing for you to do''. It was also brave of the family to meet Zheng and they had taken a ''compassionate view'' in asking that the defendant not be sentenced to jail, he said.

Zheng was a first offender and no amount of reparation or fine would change what had happened or make up for the loss of life. Her insurance would cover the damage to the uninsured motorcycles, Judge O'Driscoll said. Of the emotional harm reparation, $5000 is to be paid to Ms McIntosh, $3000 to Mr Pederson's widow and $2000 to Mr Ridley.