Healing and wheeling three years after tragedy

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013
cycle
PETER DRURY/ Fairfax NZ
Brydone Laming

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Tahuna cyclist Brydone Laming makes no apologies for yelling at people he sees riding unsafely on Waikato roads.

The mechanical engineer has more reason than most to do so, after coming within a wheel of losing his life in a horrific smash near Morrinsville that killed three of his riding buddies in 2010.

"I was the third person in line, the three behind me were the ones taken out," he told the Times in his first interview since the crash.

Mr Laming was riding with a group of 10 cyclists from around the Morrinsville area on a damp Sunday morning when Matamata woman Kristy King lost control of her car on a moderate bend and ploughed through the middle of the group.

Cyclist Wilhelm (Willy) Muller, 71, died at the scene and Mark Ferguson, 46, died on the way to hospital. Kay Wolfe, 45, died in hospital four days later.

"I feel very sorry for Kristy," Mr Laming said. "[The crash] has disrupted so many lives, not just those involved in the crash - even relationships between cyclists have broken down at a time when they needed each other more than ever."

Miss King was sentenced to 300 hours' community work, ordered to pay $30,000 to the victims' families or to charity and disqualified from driving for 12 months.

But Miss King has not been back behind the wheel of a car since the crash, according to her father Mark, who said the impact on his daughter and family had been enormous.

"She is moving on, but moving on very slowly," he said this week. Having completed a degree in marine biology in Tauranga last year Miss King has struggled to get work.

"Every time she applies for a job she says she's got a criminal record and then you never hear back," Mr King said. "Yes, it's been hard."

While some involved in the crash have given cycling away, Mr Laming continues to ride his roadbike.

"The core group riding that day were members of the ‘Cream of the Country' group. There were only a few Morrinsville Wheelers amongst the group who had just taken part in the ride," he said.

But being associated with the crash has had an impact on the Morrinsville Wheelers' club, whose president Paul Doelman claims the membership of the group had almost halved since the crash.

His concern is people's perception that Waikato roads are dangerous. "But they aren't in my opinion," he said. "They are as safe, if not safer than they have ever been."

Mr Laming agrees that Waikato roads are an ideal training ground for cyclists, but he thinks attitudes of both cyclists and motorists needs to change.

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"The relationship between cars and cyclists is poor," he said.

"Particularly when it comes to truckies, some are excellent but others are downright dangerous."

And while he claims to cop abuse "at least once a week" he said the abuse can sometimes come from the least likely of motorists.

"I remember one morning there were about six of us riding along Kiwitahi Rd, a fairly quiet country road.

"A little car came up beside us, slowed right down to our speed and a little, old lady wound down the window and started shaking her fist at us, shouting for us to get off the road - it was crazy, I'll never forget it."

Neither will he ever forget his three mates killed in November 2010. "Willy got me involved in riding cycle tours up in Northland and Kay was my wife's cousin," Mr Laming said.

"Mark Ferguson was a fellow cyclist and worked for Truline Stairways in Hamilton.

"We talked about installing stairs in my house during that ride - he was supposed to come around afterwards to take a look at the options."

But the internal staircase remains an idea only and Mr Laming is now assessing his future.

"It's been a tough period of time but cycling still remains an integral part of my life and still provides a lot of enjoyment."

- Waikato Times

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