Caused crash which killed relatives

Emergency services attend the two-vehicle crash in Braemar Rd, Tekapo, last month. Photo: Supplied
Emergency services attend the two-vehicle crash in Braemar Rd, Tekapo, last month. Photo: Supplied
A Chinese tourist pleaded guilty in the Dunedin District Court yesterday morning to causing a crash near Lake Tekapo which killed his mother and parents-in-law, and injured four other people.

Lai Xu (50), an architect, had been on holiday in New Zealand with family members when the crash happened.

Xu was travelling along the unsealed Braemar Rd on the morning of March 8, with four passengers in his car, and drove over a small rise to find another vehicle coming towards him.

When the other driver pulled to the left, Xu instinctively pulled to the right, as he would if driving in China.

Three passengers in the back seat of Xu's rented vehicle, his mother Yuyan Li, his mother-in-law Fuhe Li, and his father-in-law Jin Zhang, died at the scene.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens QC said Xu was arranging to have his in-laws' bodies taken home.

His case was heard in the Dunedin District Court because his wife, who was sitting in the front seat, was still receiving treatment at Dunedin Hospital for facial injuries at the time the charges were laid.

Prosecutor Sergeant Chris George, reading from the summary of facts, said the driver in the other car suffered 14 fractures and two others in the same car were also injured.

The summary of facts said the driver would have to wear a neck brace ''for the foreseeable future''. She also had injuries to both her legs, fractures to her shoulder, and severe bruising and swelling. It is understood Xu was also injured in the crash.

Xu, who had a calm demeanour in court, appeared with the assistance of an interpreter, and pleaded guilty to all of the charges - three counts of careless driving causing death and four of careless driving causing injury - he was facing.

Judge Turner convicted Xu on all seven charges and remanded him to appear in the Timaru District Court on June 20.

Mrs Stevens said Xu was ''thought highly of by his colleagues'' and was worried about losing his job when he returned to China if photographs of him appeared in the media.

A presentence report and reparation report was ordered, and restorative justice was to be explored.

A decision on whether media could film or take photographs of Xu was deferred until Xu reappeared in court.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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