Elderly driver's brief lapse killed biker

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 15/04/2014
Tony McKelvey
TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES: Tony McKelvey, 78, at her sentencing in Masterton District Court yesterday for careless driving causing the death of Riversdale grandfather Michael Janes.

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A frail and distraught elderly widow had to be helped into court to be told how her "momentary loss of attention" caused the death of a motorcycling grandfather.

Tony McKelvey, 78, entered Masterton District Court on the arm of a supporter, and was allowed to sit during her sentencing yesterday.

She had pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of Michael "Paddy" Janes, 73, on the road between Masterton and her home in Riversdale on July 20 last year.

She lost control on a bend and crashed head-on into Janes's BMW F650. He died almost instantly.

McKelvey was on her way to Riversdale Golf Club on a fine, clear day along a road she had driven thousands of times before, her lawyer Louise Elder said.

She accepted complete responsibility for Janes's death. "To this day, she struggles to understand how that happened."

She had driven since she was young and had no previous convictions, Elder said. "She has driven over that road thousands and thousands of times . . . how she ended up in the oncoming lane remains a mystery, but sadly she did."

She would be "truly, deeply sorry and distressed" for the rest of her life about her lapse of concentration, and she had apologised to Janes's family.

Judge Davidson said the family had lost a partner, father and grandfather. He noted McKelvey was herself injured in the accident, that her health was "problematic" and that, through a restorative justice meeting, she had given the family the chance to discuss their loss with her.

He said McKelvey's "momentary loss of attention" constituted a low to moderate level of carelessness and could happen to anyone, but had very tragic consequences.

He convicted her, ordered her to give a total of $2000 to two charities selected through the restorative justice process - Riversdale Christian Camp, and Wairarapa Search and Rescue - and disqualified her from driving for a year.

Prosecutor Jodie Lawrence said after the sentencing that drivers had to be constantly vigilant, no matter how experienced they were.

Neither McKelvey nor members of her family wished to comment.

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- The Dominion Post

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