Fatal crash driver pleads guilty
A Dutch national who crashed after he ran a stop sign, killing a Christchurch mother and two girls, had smashed a rental car in a ditch only hours before.
Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, pleaded guilty at the Christchurch District Court today to charges relating to the triple fatality collision on the Queen's Birthday weekend.
The impact killed Sumner mother Sally Rumble, 49, also known as Sally Summerfield, her daughter Ella Summerfield, 12, and Ella's friend, Abi Hone.
Appelman admitted four charges - three of careless driving causing death, and one of careless driving causing injury to the driver he hit.
However The Press can also reveal that Appelman crashed a different rental car earlier in the day of the fatal smash.
Police did not attend the earlier crash, near Christchurch Airport, but spoke to Apex Rental Cars about it.
A police spokesman said a rental car company phoned shortly after 1am on the Saturday of Queen's Birthday weekend to advise police that one of its cars, driven by a Dutch national in his 50s who had recently arrived in Christchurch, had left Johns Rd, Harewood, ending up in a ditch.
No other cars were involved and nobody was injured.
Appelman drove the damaged car back to Apex, but the company refused him a replacement.
He stayed at the nearby Copthorne Hotel Commodore, before renting the late-model Subaru station wagon he crashed at Rakaia in Christchurch later the same day.
Police said Appelman failed to stop at the intersection of Somerton Rd and Thompson's Track, in Canterbury, about 4pm on May 31.
His vehicle hit a Volvo carrying Sumner couple Shane Summerfield and Sally Rumble, daughter Ella and her best friend Abi. Ella and Abi were former Sumner School pupils.
The group was headed to Ohau for the weekend. Both girls, who were in the back seat, died instantly, the court heard.
Shane Summerfield, 48, who was driving, was injured. He was placed in an induced coma in intensive care. He has since been discharged from hospital.
An Apex spokesman said he had no comment to make about Appelman's early morning crash.
Appelman was not driving an Apex car when he crashed near Rakaia, he said.
''I don't know who the other rental car company is. Whoever it is, I feel for them,'' the spokesman said.
CRASH 'A BLANK' TO DRIVER
Appelman's "momentary inattention" had tragic consequences, his lawyer Philip Shamy said.
Shamy said police had inappropriately asked the families to prepare victim impact statements in time for today's court hearing, which had not eventuated. That could happen later.
"If the families wish to meet him, he would want to meet with them," he said.
"This is something he has felt remarkably keenly."
Shamy asked for a variation to Appelman's bail conditions, which was refused. The details of this were suppressed.
Appelman had no memory of the crash. He was still wearing a sling at court.
The crash was "simply a blank to him, however he does accept responsibility for it", Shamy said.
Appelman regularly travelled to Australia and New Zealand.
"He is not a tourist," Shamy said.
Police opposed the bail variation.
Judge John Strettell thought a restorative justice meeting could be arranged before sentencing, if the families so desired.
Appelman will be sentenced on July 16.