Lawnmower driver sentenced over death of 4yo

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 15:49 11/07/2014

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A council worker charged after a 4-year-old boy was run over and killed by a lawnmower has been sentenced to home detention.

Permanent name suppression was declined, but the 73-year-old was granted interim name suppression while he appealed that decision.

In the Napier District Court today Judge Jonathan Down declined media applications to photograph or film the man because it could further exacerbate his suffering from consequences of the "horrific and incredibly sad" incident.

He was suffering from depression and post traumatic stress and got vivid flashbacks of the accident almost daily, the court heard. He had lost his own son, who was 3 at the time, because of a tragic accident.

The Hastings District Council worker had earlier pleaded guilty to reckless driving causing death.

On October 8 last year, Uetaha Dahtanian Ransfield-Wanoa was playing at Kirkpatrick Park with his cousins when he was hit.

The man tooted and tried to wave the children away. He was still mowing when Uetaha ran towards the machine in the direction of the playground.

Onlookers said he appeared to be sucked into the mower's blades.

The accident was witnessed by other children, who ran to get help, but Uetaha died at the scene.

Family wore green T-shirts saying "Rest Easy Bubbies" in court.

His mother Ailza Wanoa wept as she read a victim impact statement to a packed public gallery.

Uetaha was a bubbly, cheeky boy that was her "main man", she said.

Her oldest child had slept with her every night, now she slept with his ashes.

Their Hastings home was too quiet since his death.

Uetaha would no longer walk like a dinosaur around the house and roar like a Tyrannosaurus-Rex, she said.

He used to enjoy his milo and toast every morning and then finish off his sister's breakfast too.

"There's no more milo and toast in the morning," she said.

His younger sister cried out for her brother in her sleep and recently bought him a giraffe - because he would have liked it.

"This has ripped us apart both inside and out."

In a statement read to court, the man said his "heart was full of sadness" for Uetaha's whanau. He wished he could change what happened that terrible day.

He apologised for robbing the family of sharing Uetaha's first day of school. The court had heard that the boy had been counting down till his birthday, and he had 53 days to go until he turned 5.

Judge Down said despite the man's best efforts the children continued to play near the mower, but he told him: "You should have slowed down and stopped well before he reached you."

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Judge Down said two years imprisonment was an appropriate starting point for the sentence, but after taking into account his age, "good and positive character and significant level of resource", he imposed a sentence of six months' home detention and 100 hours' community work.

He was disqualified from driving for three years.

The family had not asked for reparation but Judge Down ordered the man to pay $5000 in emotional reparation.

WorkSafe NZ completed an investigation earlier this year and charged the council under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

If found guilty, the council could face a maximum fine of $250,000.

A council spokesman said the council had helped with the man's legal costs. He retired from work last month.

- The Dominion Post

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