Grieving family forgive cabbie over son's death

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2012

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The family of a Hamilton man struck down and killed by a taxi say they hold no grudge against the driver.

Former taxi driver Lee Tracey, 52, initially pleaded not guilty to careless driving causing the death of Rowan Humffreys, 27, on October 2 last year.

However, last week he pleaded guilty to the charge and yesterday was convicted and ordered to pay $1000 emotional harm to Mr Humffreys' family, who were in court to hear Judge Denise Clark hand down the sentence.

Afterwards, Ann and Hillman Humffreys, and Rowan's sister Angela Alison, accepted the result and said they held no "animosity towards him".

"We just leave it up to the courts to deal with it," Mr Humffreys said. "It's just sad."

Mrs Humffreys said Rowan also played a part in the crash, given he had been drinking, but it was heartbreaking for them.

They now felt for every other family who lost a loved one because of a crash - of which there had been many lately, Mr Humffreys said.

"You just feel like crying every day, that's the feeling you get," he said.

"You don't get over it, you just learn to deal with it," Mrs Humffreys said.

Their son was a talented graphic designer, who, on the night, had just farewelled his good friend to Australia. Mrs Humffreys said her son would have followed soon afterwards too, hoping to find a good job there.

He was a trained barista, skilled at ultimate frisbee and had "so many friends", Mrs Humffreys said. "I didn't know half of them."

Tracey did not lose his licence because of the "special circumstances" of the offending.

Tracey's lawyer James Gurnick said Mr Humffreys contributed to the accident on the night, given his level of intoxication.

He recorded a blood-alcohol level of about four times the legal driving limit.

But Mr Gurnick said Tracey accepted he was travelling slightly too fast, between 54kmh and 61kmh, at the time of the crash in Thackeray St, outside Anglesea Clinic.

Mr Humffreys was hit by Tracey's van before being run over.

Mr Gurnick said Tracey's guilty plea was a "finely balanced decision ultimately" given an independent crash report that signalled the accident would have happened whether he was travelling at the speed limit or not.

Mr Gurnick said Tracey's level of carelessness was at the "lowest end".

Tracey had not been back in a taxi since the crash and had since given up the profession, only recently finding a new job.

But prosecutor Andy Kennedy said Tracey's culpability should be seen as higher given that he should have been aware of drunk people potentially on the road.

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Judge Denise Clark accepted Tracey's offer of emotional harm reparation, but said it in no way was to "put a price on the death of Mr Humffreys".

"That's not what it's for but, in a very small way, to try and offer something to his family to deal with his loss."

Judge Clark ordered it be paid at no less than $20 per week.

Tracey declined to speak to the Waikato Times after sentencing.

- Waikato Times

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