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Chinese national Yong Wang (43), who suffered major head injuries and resulting amnesia in the crash, was on crutches when he appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.
Judge Josephine Bouchier noted Wang's ''personal difficulties'', including multiple injuries that had kept him largely bed-ridden, his lack of English and his present immigration status.
However, despite the tragic outcome of the crash, which killed his sister and injured four others, including his brother-in-law and niece, Wang had to be punished for driving dangerously causing death and on four charges of driving dangerously causing injury.
His health prevented him from doing community work or going to prison.
''Prison is not a hospital. It is a prison,'' the judge said, before sentencing Wang to nine months' home detention.
He was also ordered to pay $600 emotional harm reparation to each of the Invercargill couple injured in the head-on crash and an additional $1800 reparation to the man.
Judge Bouchier earlier noted an article in Thursday's Otago Daily Times about a plan to lower the number of tourists involved in serious or fatal crashes on New Zealand roads.
''Seems like a good idea,'' Judge Bouchier said.
Wang had been in New Zealand two days when he drove his rental vehicle, with passengers his sister, her husband and their adult daughter, from Te Anau on State Highway 94 on the afternoon of December 29.
After overtaking a vehicle, the rental remained in the opposite lane and, upon entering a curve, collided head-on with a Ford Falcon with two occupants.
His sister, Wenjie Wang - the left rear passenger - was killed and her husband, Yong Zhang, (right rear) suffered major internal injuries. Their daughter, Jinglu Zhang, (front seat passenger) sustained head lacerations.
In her victim impact statement, Miss Zhang (31), who had been studying in New Zealand, said she was ''still angry''.
The death of her mother had resulted in ''immense grief'' for the family and it would take them a long time to recover.
Her father, Mr Zhang, said he was angry at the driving behaviour of his brother-in-law, and found it ''difficult to forgive''.
The other driver, Richard Wayne Alexander (32), suffered multiple injuries and his passenger, Renee Tamai Goomes (29), a broken wrist and collar bone.
In his victim impact statement, Mr Alexander said the accident had seriously impacted on the active life, finances and employment he used to enjoy.
He was now reliant on his partner to assist him in day-to-day activities.
He was also reliant on ACC, which was often difficult to deal with.