Lockdown fatal crash: Drugged driver jailed for killing father out biking with daughter

James Harrison Solvander was jailed at Christchurch District Court today. Photo: Kurt Bayer
James Harrison Solvander was jailed at Christchurch District Court today. Photo: Kurt Bayer
A drugged driver who killed a father biking with his daughter during the coronavirus nationwide lockdown has today been jailed for more than five years.

James Harrison Solvander, 33, crashed into 48-year-old Clint Hoeben and his 14-year-old daughter as they cycled near Fernside in North Canterbury on April 2.

Hoeben was killed and his daughter suffered minor injuries.

Solvander pleaded guilty at Christchurch District Court to drug-driving causing death and drug-driving causing injury.

Today, a judge told Solvander he was "an accident and tragedy waiting to happen".

Devastated wife of 24 years, Charmaine Hoeben told Solvander in the dock the widespread impact his actions have had.

It was a beautiful, clear sunny afternoon and Hoeben wanted his children, in lockdown, to exercise in the fresh air.

Clint Hoeben, 48, died shortly after being struck by a van while out cycling with his daughter in...
Clint Hoeben, 48, died shortly after being struck by a van while out cycling with his daughter in North Canterbury. Photo: Givealittle
What should have been a special bonding moment between a daughter and a father turned into a "horrific life-altering nightmare", she said.

"Clint's death has left a huge hole in our lives," she said.

"You chose to take drugs and get behind the wheel."

She questioned what was so urgent that Solvander had to break lockdown rules and drive knowing he was not in a fit state.

"We will suffer his life for a very long time," said Charmaine Hoeben.

Crown prosecutor Aaron Harvey said Solvander had an "appalling history" of impaired driving, and it "appears that he doesn't get it".

Solvander was today also convicted of drug driving on October 27 last year and careless driving on March 19. He also admitted a raft of other drugs charges.

Solvander claimed he didn't know it was lockdown, not owning a television or taking notice of any news media, defence counsel Stephen Hembrow said.

"He wishes he could turn the clock back, but he can't," the lawyer said.

Judge Gilbert said Solvander had "devastated the lives of a lot of people".

He highlighted his "terrible history of offending", especially his eight convictions involving driving and impaired driving.

And although Solvander was now sorry for what he had done, Judge Gilbert told him: "It's too late for that."

The court heard that Solvander was driving a Toyota Hiace van on Oxford Rd when the crash happened about 12.35pm on April 2.

Hoeben was cycling behind his daughter when he was struck from behind and thrown about 40m.

The girl was knocked from her bike and fell onto the road. She received extensive grazing to her legs and arms, and her father died at the scene from head and neck trauma.

When police showed up, Solvander passed a roadside breath screening test but failed a compulsory impairment test at Kaiapoi's police station.

A blood test found methamphetamine and diazepam in his system.

Police found a tin containing a pistol and 27 rounds of .22 calibre ammunition in the long grass next to where Solvander's van stopped after the crash. Solvander's DNA was found on the pistol's trigger.

Solvander told officers he was going to see a friend about a tattoo.

Solvander was jailed for five years and five months.

Family and friends rallied around the Hoeben family, including members of a dog community that Hoeben was involved with.

A Givealittle page set up to help the Hoebens ended up raising more than $42,000 for his children.

Clint Hoeben was said to have a great passion for dogs and was heavily involved with the community; as president of the Mainland Staffordshire Bull Terrier Society and the vice-president of Dogs New Zealand.

He was also a member of the NZ Dog Judges Association.

"Clint made an incredible contribution to the Stafford community and the dog community worldwide," a message on the Givealittle page reads.

"Clint was an incredible friend, mentor and family man with a huge sense of humour and his loss is beyond measure to all those who knew him; his beautiful wife Charmaine, his children Tara and Cameron, his parents Lorraine and John and many, many friends."

The message acknowledged that because many of them weren't able to be there for them in person - because of the Covid-19 lockdown - they created the page to help in that way.

"We have set up this page with all proceeds going to his children, [of] whom he was very proud."

The North Canterbury Kennel Association also paid tribute to the man who had brought his family to New Zealand from South Africa more than a decade ago for a better life.

"Clint's passion was his staffies, but there was nothing in his life that surpassed his love of Charmaine and their children Tara and Cam," an online post read.

They ended it by simply describing him as "Clint - a real nice guy".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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