Two families have spoken of their devastation after men were killed in a high speed motorway crash when their vehicle was shunted from behind by an out-of-control car with a driver having a seizure at the wheel.
The driver who had the seizure, who survived the crash on Christchurch’s Northern Motorway on May 10, 2015, struggled with tears as the victim impact statements were read in the Christchurch District Court.
Nicholas Mathew Shaw, a 34-year-old builder, had pleaded guilty to the two charges of careless driving causing death. He accepted being responsible because five months before the crash he had suffered a low level seizure and had not reported it to the police or his doctor.
In line with previous seizure episodes, he would have had his driving licence suspended for a year after the episode.
Judge Gary MacAskill said it was a tragic accident and the families had suffered devastating losses. But he said cases of careless driving in New Zealand focussed on the culpability of the offender rather than the consequences.
Jodie Evans, the wife of David Evans who was killed in the crash, spoke of the difficulties she faced raising children with “an empty void” instead of them being able to share time with their father. She said: “He was one-in-a-million and I miss him so much.”
The court was told his seven-year-old daughter spoke of wishing her father was there to kiss her goodnight and hug her close.
The family of the other man killed, Grant Corlett, spoke of the pain going “on and on”, and how he had died only two months after walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. His daughter Danielle said: “It was an unnecessary waste of a life that was so full and rich with love.”
Counsel for Shaw, Jonathan Eaton, QC, said his client had noticed that something had happened when a low-level seizure occurred in December 2015. By May, he believed he had moved on from what happened “in terms of presenting a danger on the road”. His medication had now been re-addressed, but he was not expecting to have clearance to drive for a long period.
He said Shaw had written to the victims’ families offering his profound remorse and would have liked to meet them at a restorative justice conference but they had declined. “Over the last few days he has tried to read every word of the victim impact statements. He has been very deeply affected to learn of the pain and suffering following from his act of carelessness.”
Judge MacAskill said Shaw should have accepted more responsibility for reporting the seizure in December, when he may have been forbidden from driving. He had been having seizures since 2000. The seizures led to “an abrupt onset of a suspension of awareness”.
He imposed 240 hours of community work, supervision for nine months, $5000 emotional harm reparation payments to each family, and two years of disqualification.