Dutch crash driver to pay $25,000

Abigail Ann Hone and Ella Yasmin Summerfield, left, and Johannes Jacobus Appelman. Photos from NZ Herald
Abigail Ann Hone and Ella Yasmin Summerfield, left, and Johannes Jacobus Appelman. Photos from NZ Herald

The Dutch businessman who ran a stop sign and killed a woman and two young girls has walked free from court today, with a 15-month driving ban and an order to pay $25,000 in emotional harm compensation.

Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, admitted causing 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.

He crashed another rental car hours earlier - for which he pleaded guilty to a charge of careless use of a motor vehicle at Christchurch District Court today - and had also been clocked by police speeding.

The court heard that Appelman, who has a ''significant'' international business which sees him regularly visit New Zealand and Australia, is a father of three children, with a child of similar age to Abi and Ella.

Mr Appelman, who has been in the country since the crash on bail to a Canterbury address, arrived at court and sat in the public benches waiting for his case to be called, supported by a woman who held his hand.

He was allowed to have his bail varied after pleading guilty so he could return to the Netherlands and explain to his children what he had done.

A judge was satisfied that he was not a flight risk and that he would return for sentencing today.

Members of both the Summerfield and Hone families packed in to the courtroom today.

Shane Summerfield spoke for the first time today.

He read an emotional victim impact statement where he spoke of the ''unbearable'' pain, and that he hoped Appelman's guilt would ''remain with him forever''.

On that day, ''half my family'' was taken away, he said.

Taking support from his family members, he managed to fight back tears to pay tribute to the ''special, precious, kind, caring, loving'' wife Sally, who was his ''soul mate'', and the ''agony aunt of Sumner''.

His daughter Ella was ''a daddy's girl'' who had the ability to make people feel special.

Now, Mr Summerfield says he feels ''like a lost soul ... a shadow of a man'', trapped in ''a very deep black hole''.

''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.''

Sally's son, and Ella's brother Sam also read a victim impact where he paid tribute to ''the two most beautiful girls''.

They were the ying to him and his dad's yang - as they were ''fun, carefree, party girls, who loved socialising, shopping and spending''.

Appelman remained emotionless in the dock as the powerful statements were made.

After the victim impact statements, Judge David Saunders asked the court to observe a minute's silence to pay tribute to the devastated families.

Mr Summerfield, a 48-year old dentist, was driving when the family Volvo from Christchurch to visit friends at Lake Ohau.

Appelman was driving a newly rented Subaru - from a different company from the one he crashed earlier that day - when he went through the stop sign at the Thompsons Track and Somerton Road intersection near Rakaia at about 100kmh at 3.55pm on May 31 and smashed into the Volvo's passenger side.

Both cars ended up in a paddock.

Mrs Summerfield, also known as Sally Rumble, was a front seat passenger and died instantly.

The 12-year old girls were backseat passengers and were also killed on impact.

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

Appelman says the crash is ''simply a blank''.

Last month, he pleaded guilty to three counts of careless use of a vehicle causing death and one charge of careless use of a vehicle causing injury.

Defence counsel Phil Shamy offered an unreserved apology to the Summerfield family in court today, and also to the Hone family.

''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.

''Any remorse he feels, which he does... pales against the pain and the anger and the suffering that he has cause.

''He is deserving of your anger, he is deserving of the sadness that you feel.''

Appelman had been here on business, having arrived via Australia where he had a layover and rest, before landing at Christchurch.

He picked up a rental car and had been focused on his GPS when he lost control and damaged the vehicle, Mr Shamy said.

He booked in to a hotel and rested.

The following day he had business appointments in the Ashburton area before having lunch.

He was on his way to another appointment when he ran the stop sign which Mr Shamy said he simply did not see.

''He did not do this on purpose. He did not see it. He has no memory of why this occurred. The next thing he remembers is waking up beside his car. He cannot explain to himself why this occurred.''

Appelman has gone through a restorative justice conference with the Summerfields who came away feeling that he was not remorseful for what he had done.

But Mr Shamy assured them that he was.

He had undergone counselling.

He had also met the Hones on a more informal basis, and made a payment to them which Mr Shamy said was not made to try to compensate in any way for their daughter's death, but to contribute to costs.

''There is nothing he can do to take away what he has done.''

He had made the same offer to the Summerfields.

Judge Saunders described the crash as a ''tragedy of immense proportions'' which has had ''horrendous consequences''.

The judge said there was little to be gained in sending him to prison for two months or thereabouts or in sentencing him to home detention.