Elderly truck driver was certified before fatal accident

Bicycle-wheel-02The father of a young woman cyclist crushed and killed under a truck in June says he is angry at the trucking company Bidvest for employing a driver who was aged 75.

However, Christchurch District Court Judge Jane McMeeken said to the driver at his sentencing: “I have seen medical certificates showing that you had been medically assessed not long before the accident, and there is nothing to indicate there were any health issues.”

The judge expressed the court’s sympathy to the cyclist’s family for their loss, as she sentenced the elderly driver. She noted that the driver had attended a hui with the family of the victim, and had apologised.

John William Herridge, 75, pleaded guilty in June to a charge of careless driving causing the death of student and cyclist, 22-year-old Sharla Phylis Haerewa, who was crushed beneath his truck as he made a turn on Lincoln Road on April 2.

Defence counsel Mark Callaghan said Herridge was “extremely sorry”. “There is nothing he can say which would relieve the tragedy that has happened to Sharla and her family.”

The accident occurred early on April 2 as a 10-tonne truck used for delivering food and driven by Herridge made a turn from Lincoln Road. Herridge had missed his turn on the way to work and drove the truck around the block as a result.

He swung his truck to the left into an unnamed road near Domain Terrace when he ran over the cycle ridden by the 22-year-old nursing student, who was one of two cyclists riding in the cycle lane.

Miss Haerewa had front and rear lights operating on her bike and a red light on her back. She had a fluorescent cover on her backpack.

She was dragged 10m beneath the truck, and her bicycle was dragged further before the truck came to a stop. She died at the scene despite immediate attempts at resuscitation. She had received trauma to the head and chest and minor injuries to other parts of her body.

Her father Tony Haerewa read a victim impact statement in which he described his eldest daughter as “an amazing, beautiful caring, loving, daughter, sister, and friend”. He said he was angry with the truck driver for taking his daughter’s life. Breaking the news of her death to her sisters had been one of the hardest things he had ever done as a father.

He said he was also angry at the man’s employer Bidvest because “they had a 75-year-old making a call resulting in my girl’s death”.

Judge McMeeken said there was no indication that speed had been a factor in the accident. There was a blind spot in Herridge’s vision because of a pillar in the driver’s cab, but his carelessness had been his “failure to look and look again”.

Imposing sentence would not alleviate the family’s pain, and an emotional harm reparation payment was not meant to place a financial value on a person’s life, she said.

She ordered Herridge to pay $450 reparations for the wrecked bike, and $10,000 to the victim’s family for emotional harm reparations, and she disqualified him from driving for eight months.

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