Remorseful bus driver gets two years, nine months in jail

A bus driver who exceeded the speed limit and crashed into a tree, killing an elderly passenger, has been jailed for nearly three years.

On February 28 last year, Feuu Leilua, 53, was driving his Howick and Eastern bus along Hill Rd in Manurewa - a route he travelled many in his eight years in the job.

Inexplicably, he came over the brow of a hill at 76kmh - well over the 50kmh limit - and tried to pass the car in front.

Leilua lost control of the bus and after just missing an oncoming taxi, and hit a tree.

Though the front of the vehicle took the brunt of the blow, it was the passengers who sustained the most severe injuries.

Such was the force of the impact, Leilua and three passengers were thrown out of the bus on to the road.

John Raymond Wilkins, 88, suffered blunt force head and neck trauma and died at the scene, just down the road from Elmwood retirement village where he lived.

Devastated members of his family were at Manukau District Court to watch Leilua, who had no previous convictions, sentenced to two years nine months in jail for dangerous driving causing death.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing injury to a girl, 12, and a boy, 9.

The boy received deep cuts to his head and face while the girl sustained a plethora of injuries including a leg broken two places, a broken collarbone, facial injuries and a split tongue.

Initially Leilua told police and bus company bosses the brakes had failed but a police serious crash unit investigation showed that was a lie.

His lawyer Tua Saseve said his client had powered the bus up the hill but neglected to compensate when he reached the top.

As the bus quickly approached a hatchback in front, Leilua tried to pass it on the left but hit the kerb, causing the bus to veer back into the middle of the road.

In trying to avoid oncoming traffic, the vehicle ploughed into a tree.

Mr Saseve said it was not "a persistent or deliberate act" but Crown prosecutor Mark Williams said the excessive speed coupled with the illegal manoeuvre made it a very serious offence.

Judge Charles Blackie accepted that in all other aspects of life Leilua was "a good man" and was clearly remorseful.

Leilua was also banned from driving for three years. Fairfax NZ News

Manukau Courier