Israeli tourist caused friend's death in crash

REMORSE: Gila Shalev, of Israel, yesterday admitted driving carelessly causing death.
REMORSE: Gila Shalev, of Israel, yesterday admitted driving carelessly causing death.

An Israeli woman, on holiday in New Zealand, has admitted causing the death of a friend when the vehicle they were in crashed into a tree near Te Anau.

Gila Shalev, 63, appeared before Judge Michael Turner in the Invercargill District Court yesterday.

She was fined $1000 and disqualified from driving for six months for driving carelessly causing the death of Irit Wilder, 61, and driving carelessly causing injury on the Te Anau-Milford highway on January 5.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Rob Mills said Shalev, her husband and a group of friends had hired two rental cars to travel the country.

They planned to walk the Milford Track and on January 5 drove to various points of interest on the highway before their departure time, he said.

Shalev was driving, her husband was asleep in the front passenger seat and Mrs Wilder was in the back. It was believed Mrs Wilder was not wearing a seatbelt, Mr Mills said.

About 400 metres south of Knobs Flat, about midday, Shalev drove around a slight right-hand bend, crossed the centre line and drifted on to the opposite side of the road, Mr Mills said.

The vehicle then crashed into a large tree. The weather was fine and the road dry.

Mrs Wilder suffered severe head trauma and died as a result of her injuries, Mr Mills said.

Shalev suffered leg and chest injuries, and her husband suffered chest injuries. Both were flown to hospital by helicopter.

Shalev could not explain why the vehicle had crossed the centre-line. She said a tyre had made a noise just before the collision with the tree, Mr Mills said.

Shalev's lawyer, Peter Redpath, said it was a tragedy for everyone involved and she would now carry a life-long responsibility.

She did not drink alcohol, had slept well the night before the crash and had made several stops on the highway, Mr Redpath said.

Shalev had demonstrated responsibility and remorse from the moment of the crash despite being injured and in shock, he said.

Judge Turner said it seemed Shalev was driving between 65 and 80 kilometres an hour - well within the appropriate speed for negotiating that piece of road.

The consequences of her driving were tragic and she would now live with the knowledge of the pain and suffering caused through her actions, he said.

Judge Turner said he accepted Shalev had done everything she could to show genuine remorse.

Shalev hoped to be cleared to fly out of New Zealand by Tuesday.

Her family declined to comment outside court.

The Southland Times