Charge over teen's death in rail crash goes to trial

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2013

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A teenager who pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death has failed in a bid to have the charge downgraded, and now faces trial.

In a previous court appearance Jonathan Painter, 18, pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Grace Diedrichs, 15, after the ute he was driving hit a commuter train at a level crossing north of Carterton on February 17. Grace, of Carterton, was thrown from the passenger seat of the ute on impact and died, while Painter, of Pahiatua, suffered serious head injuries.

In a case review hearing in the Masterton District Court yesterday, Painter's lawyer, Jock Blathwayt, asked for an adjournment so the Crown prosecutor could consider a traffic accident report which, he said, excluded dangerous driving, but not necessarily careless driving, as the cause of the fatal crash.

The maximum penalty for careless driving causing death or injury is three months' jail or a fine of up to $4500 and at least six months' disqualification from driving. Dangerous driving causing death or injury carries a maximum 10 years' imprisonment or a $20,000 fine, and a minimum one-year disqualification.

Crown prosecutor Miriam Wilkinson said the Crown had already considered the report referred to and would not change its position on the charge.

Judge Chris Tuohy said this meant the case was ready for trial, and remanded Painter on bail until January 21 at the Wellington District Court for a call-over.

The accident was the second death at the uncontrolled rail crossing in Wiltons Rd. Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said at the time it raised serious questions about safety at the crossing.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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