Teen crash driver dodges big damage bill

St John AmbulanceA teenage learner driver has been disqualified from driving for six months but has probably dodged most of the bill for the carnage she caused.

Wendsay Narda Isobella Solomon, 18, was appearing for sentence in the Christchurch District Court after admitting that her careless driving snapped a power pole and wrote off an ambulance.

She had her head down – the court was left speculating why – when she drove through a stop sign on Mehrtens Road, near Rangiora, on October 3.

She hit the side of an ambulance hurrying to an emergency job with its lights and siren on.

A power pole was sheared off in the crash and the ambulance tipped on its side into a water race, with live power lines touching it.

The three ambulances officers inside were not hurt, but they were upset that Solomon did not attend the restorative justice meeting that had been arranged. Defence counsel Andrea Sumner explained that Solomon found on the day of the meeting that she had lost the address and phone number for the meeting. Solomon had written a letter of apology to the officers about her careless driving.

St John has been paid out $80,000 in insurance for the depreciated value of the written-off ambulance. The court was told that the new price of a kitted-out ambulance was $164,000.

Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said he would not impose a reparation order for any of the value of the ambulance, but he did order Solomon to pay $3244 for the smashed power pole. He also warned Solomon that she might face a civil claim for the ambulance damage.

He disqualified Solomon for six months even though Miss Sumner told him it might mean she could not take up work as a farmhand and make reparation payments at $100 a week from her earnings.

He speculated about why Solomon might have had her head down as she approached the stop sign. If he were cynical, he might have suspected that she was texting or using a phone, he said.

He said it was fortunate that there were no injuries to the officers. In other circumstances she might have been standing in the High Court and facing a charge of manslaughter.


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