Dangerous corner cited in fatal crash sentencing

A lawyer is hoping something can be done about a Parklands Drive blind corner which she says is dangerous – and where a cyclist was killed in February.

Defence counsel Vicki Walsh said there was concern the corner forced cyclists into travelling wider from their side of the road than was safe, particularly when cars were parked nearby.

“Cyclists are particularly vulnerable, particularly when they are travelling downhill,” she said as 18-year-old Robert Kruger was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court on a charge of careless driving causing death.

The family of the victim has given him a letter saying they hope he will “make the most of his life”.

Kruger was on a restricted licence when he admitted he travelled too fast and straddled or crossed the centre line before colliding head-on with 33-year-old cyclist Thomas John Alton.

Mr Alton, a regular rider, was travelling downhill about 150m from his home when the crash happened at 6.45pm on February 20.

The recommended speed on the blind corner is 35kmh. Two parked cars narrowed the available road.

Mr Alton was kept alive for several days in order for his organs to be harvested and for family members to travel from Britain. His life support was switched off on February 24.

Victim impact statements from members of Mr Alton’s family spoke of a man who had moved from Britain to New Zealand, who was “adventurous, caring, funny, and energetic”.

His brother’s statement said he wanted the offender to understand what he had done. “I want him to do something positive with his life, that helps other people.”

His father told of Thomas Alton’s “kindness, friendship, and sense of fun”. Even after his death, he had touched the lives of five more people because he had chosen to donate his organs.

Defence counsel Vicki Walsh acknowledged the family’s deep loss from the “catastrophe”. Kruger had attended a “profoundly moving” restorative justice meeting with the family.

At the end of the meeting, the family passed him a letter saying they wanted him “to make the most of his life”.

She said sun-strike had been “a troubling factor” for Kruger at the time of the crash on this dangerous part of the road, though she acknowledged police had ruled it out. Since the crash, the Christchurch City Council had painted broken yellow lines to prevent people parking near the corner.

“This accident was preventable,” said Mrs Walsh. “Mr Kruger hs learned the most profoundly tragic lesson of his life, for which he apologises.”

He was deeply grateful for the grace and the mercy the victim’s wife had shown towards him, she said.

Judge Jane Farish said Kruger had so far embraced the family’s wish that he go on to make the most of his life. He had attended counselling and was now completing his engineering diploma. He would begin an apprenticeship next year.

She hoped that when he got his licence back, he would attend a defensive driving course. She believed all new drivers should go to those courses.

She imposed 200 hours of community work, a $2000 emotional harm payment to the victim’s family, and disqualification from driving for a year.

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