Convicted foreign driver 'so sorry'

Johannes Jacobus Appelman crashed while fiddling with a GPS the day before causing the deaths of ...
Johannes Jacobus Appelman crashed while fiddling with a GPS the day before causing the deaths of (from left) Abi Hone and Ella and Sally Summerfield. Photo / Martin Hunter
The Dutch businessman who ran a stop sign and killed three people would "hurt for the rest of his life", a close friend said last night.

But he has not spoken publicly because he can't put into words how he feels.

Father-of-three Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, avoided jail yesterday after admitting he caused the deaths of Sally Vanessa Summerfield, 49, her daughter Ella Yasmin Summerfield, 12, and Ella's friend Abi Hone, 12, on Queen's Birthday weekend.

Since the horror smash, Appelman has been sheltered on a rural Canterbury property by friend and fellow Dutchman, Arjen Buter.

Last night, Mr Buter told APNZ Appelman, known as Jan, was "absolutely sorry for what he has done".

"He's got kids the same age. We've got kids the same age.

"It will hurt for the rest of his life."

Appelman is a general manager of an international firm that sells agricultural dry storage facilities, and often travels to New Zealand.

On May 30 he arrived in Christchurch and rented a car, but just a few kilometres from the airport, he was fiddling with his GPS when he crashed it.

The next day, he hired a Subaru from another firm. He says he did not see a stop sign at the Thompsons Track and Somerton Rd intersection near Rakaia.

At 3.55pm, he sped through the stop sign at about 100kmh.

Appelman ploughed into the Summerfields' Volvo on the passenger side, killing Mrs Summerfield, and the two youngsters on impact.

Mr Summerfield suffered broken ribs, a ruptured diaphragm, lacerated spleen and kidney, a left side hemothorax and torn aorta.

The 48-year old dentist, supported by his devastated son Sam, read an emotional victim impact statement in court yesterday.

He spoke of the "unbearable" pain, and that he hoped Appelman's guilt would "remain with him forever".

"Written words will never express the devastation [Appelman] has caused so many people," he told the court.

"He must take responsibility for his actions.

"For us to remain here in Christchurch, we will never have a reprieve from the loss of the three girls. It will live on like a recurring nightmare."

Judge Saunders sentenced Appelman on three counts of careless use of a vehicle causing death, one charge of careless use of a vehicle causing injury, and one of careless use of a motor vehicle.

He banned him from driving for 15 months and ordered him to pay Mr Summerfield $25,000 of emotional harm reparation.

The court heard that Appelman had already paid an undisclosed sum to the Hone family.

The Summerfields had met Appelman in a restorative justice conference and came away feeling he was not remorseful.

His lawyer, Phil Shamy assured the court he was.

"There is nothing that Mr Appelman can say, nothing he can do, there is nothing he can offer that will ever make up for the harm he has done," Mr Shamy said.

His friend, Mr Buter said that Mr Shamy had advised Appelman not to speak to the media, but the lawyer had "expressed Jan's feelings well".

"It wasn't lip service," Mr Buter said.

"He's not a man that easily talks about his emotions, or is able to express in words what he feels."

Appelman's wife Sylvia reiterated that her husband -- who has undergone counselling -- doesn't want to speak about what happened.

"He doesn't see the need of it," she told APNZ.

If Appelman ever returns to New Zealand he will have to obtain a New Zealand drivers licence and satisfy authorities that he's a safe driver.

A charge of careless driving causing death carries a maximum penalty of three months' imprisonment.

Dr Chris Gallavin, dean of law at University of Canterbury, said it was extremely rare for jail terms to be handed down in careless driving cases.

"More often these cases are treated as a tragedy for everyone involved," he said.

"Everyone acknowledges the level of mental fault is actually very minor. It's things we get away with on a daily basis around the country."

In a personal comment from the bench, Judge Saunders asked the media not to pursue Appelman "for a scoop interview", saying it was "always an unseemly sight" to see people being pursued down the street.


Outside court, spokesman for the Hone family, Darren Wright read a statement from parents Lucy, Trevor, and their two sons Ed and Paddy.

The Hone family thanked friends, family, and the wider community for their compassion and support.

"We couldn't have got through this without it. It is our sincerest hope that in the months and years ahead, you will not be afraid to speak their names and join us in keeping the memories of our dear Abi, Sally and Ella alive."

A spokeswoman for the Summerfield and Rumble families said they thanked friends, family, emergency services, Christchurch Hospital, and "people unknown to us in the Sumner community for their love and support during this time".

"We will forever mourn the loss of our two most beautiful girls."

Both families have now asked for privacy to grieve.

- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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