Family still recovering from smash
Hamilton resident Stacey Kaye is still recovering from the events of May 4, the night she saw the headlights of Michael Thomas Peden's Mazda approaching, too rapidly, in her rear vision mirror.
Before she even had time to warn her 8-year-old son Jaron and 12-year-old daughter Jena, 20-year-old Peden had ploughed into the back of her Subaru, sending it skidding 45 metres into the front yard of a house on Bankwood Rd in Fairfield – just down the road from where Ms Kaye grew up.
She came off worst, with serious muscular and connective tissue damage, and is still not back at work – an after-school care centre she runs for 80 kids.
It's lucky she has "a wonderful team running it" in her absence.
Her daughter was in a neck brace for nearly two weeks but it was her son – who only sustained bruising – that has been worst affected.
"He actually thought we were dead."
Ms Kaye still refuses to call it an accident and says the crash has had a massive impact on her whole family.
Peden, of Pukete, yesterday pleaded guilty in Hamilton District Court to three charges of excess breath alcohol causing injury, one charge of failing to stop after an accident and one of failing to ascertain injury.
He is on bail and will be sentenced in August.
When asked outside court whether the guilty pleas were a weight off his shoulders he said, "I'm all good, eh".
He had friends and family with him at court, but one less-familiar face was also there – Ms Kaye.
Until yesterday, Peden had been a faceless looming lump of metal, but she says there is some relief in putting a face to the offender.
Peden's lawyer Russell Boot mentioned restorative justice but Ms Kaye is unsure whether it is something she could face.
"I couldn't stand to be near someone who could do that, but that could change."
Ms Kaye's car was written off, but because Peden has not yet organised his insurance company, there has been no compensation forthcoming. Not that getting behind the wheel is an attractive prospect.
"I've just started to drive, but not long distances. To be honest I'm terrified."
Because of the injuries she can not drive a manual and though the crash was not her fault, her kids are nervy when she's driving.
Though Ms Kaye wants an example made of Peden at sentencing, she says she is not looking for payback.
"It's for all the people who haven't walked away [from serious crashes]. It's more to keep other people safe."
Ultimately she wants him to understand the gravity of his offending, something she does not think has dawned on him yet.
"He just doesn't seem to have that mentality that what he did was so wrong. I don't know if he'd even get that if we'd been horrifically injured."
One positive has emerged from all the wreckage, however.
Last month Ms Kaye wrote a letter to the Waikato Times expressing her gratitude to the people of Fairfield who had tended to them before emergency services arrived. She echoed those feelings yesterday. "I've realised how good people are too," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News