Fatal crash survivor Laura McIntosh wants tougher controls
on the hire of rental vehicles.
A survivor of a crash in the Lindis Pass that claimed two
lives, caused by an inexperienced Chinese driver, wants to see
rental car companies imposing tougher controls on who it hires
Laura McIntosh (28), of Timaru, was a pillion passenger on
her partner Grant Roberts' motorcycle and received
life-threatening injuries in the November 26 crash which
Still recuperating, she returned to the site for the first
time yesterday, accompanied by Mr Roberts' sisters and the
head of Cromwell police, Sergeant Simon Paget.
''I can't remember anything about the crash and I want to
understand how it happened and where it happened and see the
place for myself ... and maybe get some closure.''
The driver, Kejia Zheng (20), a student, was sentenced in the
Alexandra District Court in December on four charges arising
from the crash, ordered to pay $10,000 emotional harm
reparation to the victims and their families and disqualified
from driving for two years.
The scene of the crash in the Lindis Pass last November.
Photos by Lynda van Kempen.
She admitted driving carelessly, causing the death of Mr
Roberts (43), of Timaru, and Dennis Michael Pederson (54), of
Tauranga, and injuring Miss McIntosh and William Vincent
Ridley. Judge Stephen O'Driscoll said the crash was caused by
her inexperience, both generally and specifically on New
Zheng rented a car while on holiday, drifted into the gravel
on the left-hand side of the road and lost control, sliding
into the path of a group of motorcyclists, who were
travelling in the opposite direction.
Mr Roberts and Mr Pederson were thrown several metres and
died at the scene. Miss McIntosh said she wants rental car
companies to think about who they give cars to.
''She [Zheng] had no knowledge or understanding about our
roads, so rental car companies need to realise when they hire
out vehicles, they might be putting people in danger ...
''I don't think I'll be able to forgive her.
''I don't understand why someone so young and so
inexperienced would drive. But I do have empathy for her -
the crash is something she'll never be able to forget.''
Miss McIntosh and her partner were in a group of about 20
friends who had been at the Burt Munro Challenge in Southland
before the accident.
''It was my first time at the Burt Munro and we had a great
time. I intend to go back one day.''
She recalled leaving Invercargill, travelling through
Cromwell ''and then sort of woke up and it was seven days
Her left ankle, arm and right femur were broken in the crash,
the bottom part of her leg was de-gloved, she broke ribs and
fractured vertebrae and spent two months in Dunedin Hospital
before being transferred back to Timaru. She now had plates
and rods to hold bones together and faced further operations
and skin grafts, but was ''coping the best I can, with the
support of family and friends''.
Miss McIntosh's life had ''stalled'' since then and she had
lost her independence, going from managing a restaurant
before the crash, to shifting back in with her parents.
''The worst thing in hospital immediately afterwards was
every time I woke up, confused, I'd forget what had happened
and every time someone would have to tell me again about the
accident and what had happened to Grant - that happened for
three or four days.''
Her partner of five years was an ''amazing, strong,
independent person'', a family man with four children, who
wanted to ''look after everyone and keep everyone safe''.
Mr Roberts was always the life and soul of the party and kept
''He suggested to someone on our way home that he'd swap me
for a bucket of muttonbirds.''
Her near-death experience made her appreciate the small
things in life.
''I just want to be happy and I'm trying to smile where I
Sgt Paget said Miss McIntosh was incredibly brave.
''She puts a face on what a moment's inattention can do, and
the consequences, which never go away ... from one stupid
driving mistake that could've been avoided.''
A member of the public had phoned police concerned about
Zheng's driving at Twizel on the day of the crash, he said.
Police responded but were unable to find the vehicle and
there were no further reports of bad driving.
Southern district road policing manager Inspector Andrew
Burns said complaints about driving were being given top
priority by police, to make the roads safer. Any which
involved drivers in rental vehicles were being followed up
with rental car companies.
Although drivers were meeting the conditions to hire
vehicles, police were monitoring driving behaviour and had no
hesitation in ordering drivers off the road, he said.