A Chinese exchange student has been disqualified from driving for two years and ordered to pay $10,000 in emotional harm payments for causing the death of two men and injuring two other people in a crash near Tarras last month.
Kejia Zheng, 20, was sentenced in the Alexandra District Court yesterday by Judge Stephen O'Driscoll on two charges of careless driving causing death and two charges of careless driving causing injury.
Grant John Roberts, 43, of Timaru, and Dennis Michael Pederson, 54, of Tauranga, were killed on November 26 when Zheng crashed into their motorcycles in a rental car she was driving on the Lindis Pass-Tarras highway.
Roberts' partner, who was riding as a pillion passenger, and another motorcyclist were also seriously injured in the crash.
They had been part of a group of 10 motorcyclists travelling home from the Burt Munro Challenge in Southland.
Zheng hit gravel on the side of the road and over-corrected, causing the crash. Speed and alcohol were not factors and the main cause was Zheng's inexperience in driving, the judge said.
He ordered Zheng to pay the injured pillion passenger, and Roberts' partner, Laura McIntosh, a $5000 emotional harm payment.
"She [Ms McIntosh] will have months, if not years, of rehabilitation as a result of the crash," the judge said.
McIntosh is in a stable condition in Dunedin Hospital.
Judge O'Driscoll also ordered Zheng to pay $3000 to Pederson's wife and $2000 to the other motorcyclist injured in the crash as emotional harm payments.
Lawyer Tim Cadogan said Zheng, an exchange student who had been living in Australia, had been in New Zealand for only a day when the crash happened.
She was fully insured and the insurance company had agreed to pay for three uninsured vehicles in the crash.
The judge commended Zheng for meeting Roberts' family in Alexandra yesterday.
Roberts' mother, Valmai Crawford, said his family, and his partner, McIntosh, did not want Zheng to be sent to jail and called the crash a "tragic accident".
"It could have happened to anyone," Crawford said.
- The Southland Times