A shattered life without Lil
Grieving road crash survivor Graham Clothier believes the driver of a bus that killed the woman he loved should have been stood down pending the results of a police investigation.
He's missed his partner Lil everyday since the fatal crash and he's gutted the driver is back behind the wheel, ferrying passengers around.
Clothier was sitting in the passenger seat beside Lynelle Joy Bray, 46, when the fatal collision occurred in Hamilton on December 30 last year.
He and "Lil" had been friends for a "fair old while".
Bray, a mother of two, completed an accounting degree in April last year and though she had struggled for eight months to find a job, she finally landed her dream gig just before Christmas.
The couple's romantic relationship followed a similar pattern and everything fell into place in early December. "I loved her," Clothier said. "We were in love with each other."
Bray stopped at his Forest Lake home on the afternoon of December 30 and they made New Year's Eve plans. From there they drove to Bray's house in Hillcrest to collect clothes, bits and pieces and her dog Flynn.
With the Daihatsu packed, they travelled back and approached the intersection of Te Rapa Rd, Victoria St, Ulster St, and Forest Lake Rd about 4.40pm.
Clothier said there were two vehicles ahead of them as they entered the intersection from Victoria St.
"As we came to the lights they were green and we carried on rolling through," Clothier recalled.
"At that point I saw the bus . . . I was looking around, and it was a funny intersection because there were 20 odd cars on the other side and no other cars in the intersection at all.
"So I checked the lights. We were still on green, and I screamed - the last thing I said that she would have heard was, ‘That bus ain't going to stop'. "She hadn't seen it. She wouldn't have even been looking that way."
Then came the impact.
"I knew Lil had gone straight away. Ahh, unfortunately it's not a nice thing to sit through. We were quite squashed up in the car and spent a few minutes in there until the ambulance came."
Clothier's right arm was snapped in five places and a segment of bone was so badly damaged it had to be removed. There are plates, pins and screws holding it together now.
Clothier said he misses Lil every day.
When he heard the bus driver was back on duty ferrying the public around the region he was "gutted".
"I am concerned the driver's still out there driving. I don't think that's right," he said.
"Innocent until proven guilty, but if she is guilty how does everybody feel that she's been on the road for another month?"
The woman is back driving for Pavlovich Coachlines which is contracted to the Waikato Regional Council.
Chief executive Bernard Pavlovich said he had three options regarding the driver - stand her down without pay, stand her down with pay or get her driving again.
"To stand her down and leave her on pay would be an inference of guilt," he said.
"And I would have trouble to explain that to her because she's currently innocent."
Pavlovich said his conscience would be clear if a police investigation found his driver was at fault in some way. However, he admitted he may find it "difficult".
Police advised him to let them investigate and he has not delved into the matter.
"Until they've finished their enquiries and determined that our driver was or was not at fault then I will not be prejudgmental of our staff member."
Pavlovich would not comment on the driver's work history. She had had counselling and was cleared to drive again, he said.
"From her personal point of view we're happy for her to go back to doing what she does as a job."
Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace said the crash was still under investigation.
"What we can say is that the crash investigation is still very much ongoing with results from a number of forensic tests still awaited," she said.