Call to restrict car rentals for inexperienced drivers

CHE BAKER
Last updated 07:36 21/03/2013
Laura McIntosh and Sergeant Simon Paget
CHE BAKER/Fairfax NZ
Laura McIntosh and Sergeant Simon Paget in Cromwell today before returning to the site in the Lindis Pass where Miss McIntosh’s partner Grant Roberts was killed during a head-on crash with a Chinese tourist in November.

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A Timaru woman left with life-long injuries after being involved in a head-on crash which killed her partner and friend in Central Otago is calling on rental companies to stop hiring out cars to inexperienced drivers.

Laura McIntosh returned to Lindis Pass yesterday to the site where her partner Grant John Roberts, 43, of Timaru, and friend Dennis Michael Pederson, 54, of Tauranga, were killed on November 26.

Chinese student Kejia Zheng, 20, crashed into the two men's motorcycles - Miss McIntosh was riding pillion on Mr Roberts' bike - after she crossed the centre line in the rental car she was driving.

The trio were a part of a group of about 18 motorcyclists returning from the Burt Munro Challenge in Southland.

Miss McIntosh was airlifted to hospital in a critical condition where she spent two months being treated for injuries She needed skin grafts after de-gloving the bottom part of both legs, bone grafts on a broken right femur, a broken left arm, ankle and hand, breaks in her neck, fractures to her back, broken ribs and brain bleeds.

Another motorcyclist was also injured in the crash.

She returned to the crash scene yesterday, with three of her partner's sisters, to find some answers about the crash which she cannot recollect.

"I just want to understand how everything happened. In a way I just want a wee bit of closure," she said. She had been unable to attend Mr Roberts' funeral as she was in hospital.

While she understood the crash was an accident, she said she would never forgive Miss Zheng.

Miss Zheng, who had arrived in New Zealand only the day before the crash, had 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 Miss Zheng's inexperience in driving.

"She should never have been driving. She was so young, and so inexperienced," Miss McIntosh said.

"I just want rental car companies to think about who they give a car to. She had no knowledge of our roads. They need to realise they are putting everyone in danger on our roads."

Miss McIntosh, who before the crash worked as a restaurant manager, said she was unlikely to be able to return to the workforce for some time.

"Even though the bones have healed I'm going to have major back problems for the rest of my life. I have not only lost Grant. I lost all my independence," she said.

The worst part after the crash had been waking up in hospital and forgetting about what had happened and having to be told again every time she woke up.

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Miss McIntosh said she would "definitely get back on a bike" and return to the Burt Munro Challenge. Mr Roberts had been a keen fan of the event.

She was very grateful for the support from the Invercargill City Council when she was in hospital and remembered being sent fruit baskets by Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

Sergeant Simon Paget, of Cromwell, who accompanied the group to the scene, said "what Laura and Grant's sisters are doing is very brave."

"They are the human face of what a moment's inattention can cause," Mr Paget said.

- The Southland Times

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