Father in court after visit to son's grave
The father of a five-year-old boy killed by a bus on the West Coast regrets driving while disqualified to his son's grave, his lawyer says.
Mahuri Bettjeman-Manawatu was killed when he was hit by his school bus in the small coastal town of Hector on August 21.
He had hopped off the bus only moments earlier but was struck when it turned the corner into a street.
Mahuri was buried in Kaikoura.
Two days after the funeral, the boy's father, James Manawatu, was pulled over by police at Kekerengu on the way back from visiting his son's grave.
He was driving while disqualified, just two days before he was due to get his license back.
Manawatu's lawyer Doug Taffs told The Press tonight that Manawatu felt he "had to go sit by his son's side".
"He went to the grave and sat with his boy for a few hours. He was on his way back when the police pulled him over on a routine stop," Taffs said.
"He didn't tell them where he'd been. It was too personal to him. He didn't want to justify what he'd done; he knew it was wrong."
The Westport News reported today that Manawatu was charged in the Westport District Court with driving while disqualified. He was convicted and discharged and lost his license for a further six months.
"The judge didn't have an option legally but to impose disqualification," Taffs said.
Taffs said Manawatu was "visibly upset" while in court, but accepted the outcome.
"He realised he made a bad decision. He does have regrets," he said.
"I can understand why he did it. I think anyone can understand it, especially when his son was killed in such a sad way. But it's still against the law."
Mahuri and his two older brothers, aged about seven and eight, were dropped off several metres from the corner by the small Ritchies' bus about 3.10pm, along with about six or seven other fellow Granity School pupils.
A close family friend, James Coleman, told The Press in August he watched in horror from his house as the bus struck Mahuri, who had run across the road in front of the bus.
''I realised his brother was trying to grab him but it didn't look like he'd make it. Then I heard the boom.''
- © Fairfax NZ News