A man left with a brain injury after a 2007 crash which killed his drink-driving brother has now caused a death himself when he drove through a red light while blinded by the sun.
Tewi Tunoa David Lawson, 40, was sentenced after admitting careless driving causing death for a crash on November 6, 2017, when he collided with moped rider Vincent Salomon.
Mr Salomon, a French resident and father of two young girls, received a severe brain injury and died in hospital two weeks later, after his parents had flown from France to see him.
His widow, Penny Claridge, delivered an impressive victim impact statement at Lawson’s sentencing in the Christchurch District Court, ending by saying she harboured no bitterness. “It won’t change anything and it won’t bring him back,” she said.
She hoped that Lawson would not be in a position to do this again and received a lengthy loss of his licence. She described Mr Salomon as “my beautiful, gentle friend”, and said: “I just can’t imagine life without him.”
A 15-month disqualification was imposed by Judge David Saunders but the court was also told that Lawson was to sell his car and may never seek to drive again.
His lawyer, Steve Hembrow, said that would leave him severely limited because the continuing effects of Lawson’s own brain injury affected his balance and left him unable to ride a bicycle.
At 1am on August 12, 2007, Kaiapoi labourer Murray James Ferguson – a 46-year-old driving with nearly four times the legal blood-alcohol limit – ran a stop sign in Hornby. He was hit by a four-wheel-drive, with Ferguson dying at the scene from internal injuries and his brother, Lawson, suffering serious head injuries. Lawson was the front seat passenger.
Lawson works and and receives ACC top-ups. He was driving home from work when he says he was momentarily blinded by the sun and missed seeing the red light at the corner of Selwyn and Brougham streets. Five seconds after the light turned red, he drove through it and collided with Mr Salomon on his moped.
On behalf of Mr Salomon’s family, Anna Gilbert read a statement describing the loss. She said Lawson’s careless and irresponsible behaviour had made him “responsible for the destruction of two families”. She said: “We hope this will weigh on your conscience for the rest of your life.”
Mr Hembrow said Lawson was deeply upset by what had happened and apologised unreservedly to the families.
Judge David Saunders urged drivers generally to be more careful. It was everybody’s duty to try to observe all the rules. “They are not just suggestions,” he said.
Lawson’s error of judgment had had serious and severe consequences, with a huge impact on the life and happiness of his family, said the judge.
He imposed 200 hours of community work, 15 months of disqualification, and an emotional harm payment of $7500 which will cover some of the victim’s families’ costs, including flying the parents to New Zealand. Part of the reparations will come from the sale of Lawson’s car.