No disqualification for careless driving

Brent Patterson. File photo: ODT
Brent Patterson. File photo: ODT
A Dunedin man who caused the death of a child in a bulldozer accident 14 years ago has been convicted again for errant driving.

Brent Ernest Patterson (54) was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of his cousin’s son, 3-year-old Matthew Birtles, following the tragedy on July 1, 2007 at his semi-rural Andersons Bay property.

Two years earlier, the contractor had been fined $5000 for breaching the Health and Safety in Employment Act when he used bolt cutters to sever live power lines.

Patterson was charged with careless driving following an incident on State Highway 1 on May 28, but because it is a fines-only offence he was allowed to plead guilty by letter.

Community magistrate Simon Heale convicted the defendant, without reference to the incident 14 years ago, and ordered him to pay $2900 reparation.

He declined to impose a driving disqualification.

Court documents revealed Patterson was travelling north in a van towing a trailer when he was overtaken by the victim near Waikouaiti.

As soon as the manoeuvre had been completed, the defendant pulled out and tried to overtake the Mazda, but in doing so the trailer clipped the vehicle and forced them off the road.

Patterson did not stop and when questioned by police said he did not remember the collision.

The father of Matthew Birtles was stunned to hear the contractor was back before the Dunedin District Court last week.

"He’s always had that reckless streak," Glenn Birtles said.

"He’s not learning."

Mr Birtles said there had been a similar lack of remorse during the previous court case.

"He wrote a letter afterwards saying sorry. It was too little too late," he said.

"I see close calls [on the road]. I know how quickly things can go wrong and how families can be destroyed."

Patterson was driving the bulldozer up a slope in 2007, towing a trailer carrying Matthew and his parents, as well as two other children.

The bulldozer stalled and he could not restart it, so allowed it to freewheel back slowly until the trailer came to rest against a gatepost.

Patterson and the passengers climbed down but shortly after, the bulldozer rolled backwards a few metres, killing Matthew instantly.

Patterson’s daughter also went under a track but was pulled free by Mr Birtles, with crush injuries to her shoulder and arm.

Mr Birtles said he had tried to "block out" the horror of that day.

"You learn coping mechanisms but you never forget," he said.


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