Tourist in fatal crash remanded on bail

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 11:49 03/06/2014
stuff.co.nz

Dutch driver Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, appeared in Christchurch District Court this morning.

Abi and Ella
SUPPLIED
TRAGIC LOSS: Abigail "Abi" Ann Hone (left) and Ella Yasmin Summerfield, both aged 12, died in a crash in Rakaia.
Sally Summerfield
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TRAGIC LOSS: Sally Summerfield, 49, died alongside her daughter.
Johannes Jacobus Appelman
Dean Kozanic
CRASH DRIVER: Johannes Jacobus Appelman leaves court.

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The parents of 12-year-old Abi Hone bear no animosity toward the Dutch driver charged with causing the fatal crash that killed her and two others, a family spokesman says.

Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, appeared in Christchurch District Court this morning with his arm in a sling.

He faces three charges of careless driving causing death and one of careless driving causing injury after allegedly driving through a stop sign at 4pm on Saturday.

The crash killed Abi, Abi's best friend, 12-year-old Ella Summerfield, and Ella's mother, Sally Summerfield. The crash also injured Ella's father, 48-year-old Shane Summerfield, who was driving. Their son Sam Summerfield was not in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

They all are from the Christchurch suburb of Sumner.

Hone family spokesman Darren Wright said that Trevor and Lucy Hone were still trying to figure out what happened and did not bear Appelman ill will.

"They are very sympathetic towards him. He's as much a victim in this as everyone else. They don't hold any grudges against the man," he said. "At the end of the day, this could have happened to anybody. 

"They certainly feel there are three families [affected]. He will have to spend the rest of his life living with this on his conscience. You wouldn't wish that on anybody.

"Until we know what actually has happened, you can't pass judgement."

Appelman was represented by top Christchurch lawyer Phil Shamy before a registrar and has been remanded on bail until July 10.

Appelman kept this head down as he walked silently from court flanked by his lawyer and a male supporter. He has surrendered his passport.

Meanwhile, Shane Summerfield, who was injured in the crash and required surgery, has regained consciousness.

"The hospital says he is stable and talking. Things are looking up," Wright said.

A separate funeral would be held for Abi Hone.

The Hones would not attend court, but appreciated there was a "process that needs to be followed", Wright said.

A Ministry of Education trauma team would be at Sumner School to support grieving pupils this morning, he said. Wright did not know if Shane Summerfield was yet aware of what had occurred.

TOUGHER RULES FOR OVERSEAS DRIVERS WANTED

Wright also said that New Zealand authorities need to reconsider rules allowing overseas tourists to drive on the country's roads.

Wright said there had been a series of serious crashes involving tourists and it was time for a discussion about the rules allowing foreign drivers on New Zealand's roads.

"Unfortunately it was another tourist. We've certainly had a spate of them."

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He felt authorities also needed to look at the quality of the country's roads, many of which were "very narrow".

Overseas visitors can drive in New Zealand with an international licence, or a country-of-origin licence, if their country is a signatory to a United Nations convention guaranteeing driving rights.

Police assistant commissioner Dave Cliff said Kiwis who wanted to drive on holiday overseas would be penalised if New Zealand stepped away from the agreement.

NZ Transport Agency figures showed the proportion of fatal accidents involving drivers with an overseas licence had increased from 0.3 per cent in 1998 to 6.4 per cent last year.

Cliff said the figures climbed to about 25 per cent in areas where there were more tourists, such as Queenstown Lakes and Southland, but it was difficult to compare the figures with overseas data because New Zealand had a higher number of self-driving tourists.

"There's nothing we're doing that isn't consistent with what other people are doing though."

Police were working with other agencies, including the Ministry of Transport, to "brainstorm ideas" on how to educate drivers from overseas. A workshop was held in Queenstown last month.

The key road safety issues in New Zealand continued to be drink driving, speeding and failing to wear seatbelts, Cliff said.

Canterbury boy Sean Roberts started a petition calling for tourists to pass a test before driving in New Zealand after his father, Grant, was killed by a foreign driver in 2012.

More than 17,500 people had signed the petition as of yesterday, with many of the latest signatories stating they were joining the campaign for the Hone and Summerfield families.

Prime Minister John Key did not believe any changes needed to be made to rules.

Key said yesterday that the accident rate per capita was about the same for New Zealand drivers and those from overseas, "so I don't think that's a big issue".

He said the Government preferred to work with rental car companies and airlines to improve driver education.

Road safety campaigner and car reviewer Clive Matthew-Wilson said the Government was scared of taking decisive action.

Many tourists were not capable of driving safely on New Zealand's roads and "end up killing innocent people in road crashes".

He believed overseas visitors should be banned from renting cars until they passed an online driving test.

Five people were killed on New Zealands roads over the Queen's Birthday holiday. Four of those killed were involved in crashes with foreign drivers. The official holiday period ended at 6am today.

- The Press

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