$120,000 payment offer for tourist driving death

Court House-entranceA Chinese tourist driver has offered to pay the equivalent of $120,000 compensation to the family of the passenger he killed when he lost control on a back country road.

Jing Huang, 36, was driving in conditions very different from what he was used to in China, the Christchurch District Court was told when he admitted careless driving causing the death of Jing Jing Luo.

Huang drifted into a build-up of shingle while driving about 50km an hour on the Braemar-Mount Cook Station Road on the shore of Lake Pukaki. The car went out of control down a bank, crashed into rocks, and ended up on its roof beside the lake.

Huang’s travelling companion, described in court as a friend, was killed at the scene.

Defence counsel Glenn Dixon said the woman’s parents and husband had come to New Zealand and a “raw and emotional” memorial service was held at the scene of the death. Huang had offered a heart-felt apology.

He had also apologised at a restorative justice conference held in his lawyer’s office in Christchurch after his initial appearance in court. He was sentenced later in the day, after the conference had been held.

Mr Dixon said Huang had offered to pay the equivalent of NZ$120,000 to the victim’s family, and he had made $5000 available from a credit card immediately, which Judge Stephen O’Driscoll then ordered as emotional harm reparations.

The judge said he hoped Huang would abide by the conditions of the agreement he had reached in Christchurch once he flew out of New Zealand in the next day or two, noting that the terms were unenforceable once he left the country.

The terms were for him to pay $20,000 to the family immediately, and the remainder over five or ten years – the term was not clear according to Mr Dixon.

Mr Dixon said that when the car slid on gravel, Huang did not have the skills to correct it. “He is an experienced driver but these are not the kind of driving conditions he is used to in Beijing.”

Judge O’Driscoll referred to the accident as a tragedy. He noted it was the Chinese custom for payments to be made when a fatal accident occurred.

“No amount of reparation can change what has occurred or bring back the deceased,” he said.

He imposed no fine, saying that all of Huang’s financial resources should go to the victim’s family, but he imposed a one-year disqualification from driving in New Zealand.



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