Flashbacks haunt mower death driver

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014

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A council worker suffers vivid flashbacks of the day he ran over and killed a 4-year-old boy.

The 73-year-old thought about Uetaha Dahtanian Ransfield-Wanoa every day, he told the boy's whanau through an apology read in Napier District Court yesterday.

The death also brought up memories of when his own son was killed in a tragic accident aged just 3-years-old.

Name suppression for the Hastings District Council worker was extended to give him time to appeal against a judge's decision to make his name known.

The man feared that publishing his name would put his health and safety at risk.

He was depressed and had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder since his lawnmower hit Uetaha on October 8 last year. He relived the accident over and over with vivid flashbacks, his lawyer, Andru Isac, said.

In a statement read to the court, the man said no words could express how sorry he was. He wished he could change what happened that terrible day.

He apologised for robbing the family of sharing Uetaha's first day of school.

Uetaha had been counting down the days till his birthday, his mother, Ailza Wanoa, told the court. He had 53 days to go until he turned 5.

She wept as she described her bubbly, cheeky boy, her "main man". Uetaha, her oldest child, had slept with her every night, now she slept with his ashes.

Their Hastings home was too quiet since his death. Uetaha would no longer walk like a dinosaur around the house and roar like a tyrannosaurus rex, she said.

"This has ripped us apart both inside and out."

Uetaha was playing at Kirkpatrick Park in Hastings with his cousins when he was hit by the lawnmower.

The driver tooted and tried to wave the children away but they ignored him. He was still mowing when Uetaha ran towards the machine in the direction of the playground. Onlookers said he appeared to be sucked into the mower's blades.

The accident was witnessed by other children, who ran to get help. Uetaha died at the scene.

Judge Jonathan Down told the man: "You should have slowed down and stopped well before he reached you."

Taking into account the man's age, "good and positive character and significant level of resource", Down imposed a sentence of six months' home detention and 100 hours' community work.

The man was disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to pay $5000 in emotional reparation.

Outside court a family member lashed out at the media and punched a cameraman in the face.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said it was a tragic case. "A family has lost a son and that has caused major sadness and grief, and a very good council employee, with a lot of seniority, who also lost his own son at a very similar age, has had his life turned upside down as well."

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The council had helped the man with his legal costs. He retired from work last month.

WorkSafe New Zealand completed an investigation earlier this year and had also charged the council under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

- The Dominion Post

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