Son of road crash victim speaks out about impact of tragedy on young family

Nick Calavrias and wife Mariana, after he received his ONZM in 2011 for services to business.

Nick Calavrias and wife Mariana, after he received his ONZM in 2011 for services to business.

Nick Calavrias still struggles to explain to his three young children why their "Papou" is not coming home.

Calavrias' father, also called Nick, was 67 when he died after being hit by a distracted driver while cycling on the Taupō expressway in January. 

Now, with the road toll at its highest level in five years, Calavrias Jr is calling for more to be done to stop driver distractions, particularly cellphones.

Nick Calavrias with grandchildren Dimitri, left, and Zack.

Nick Calavrias with grandchildren Dimitri, left, and Zack.

Nine months on from his father's death, he said: "It's hard for kids to really understand, and they get really insecure.

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"If that can happen to Papou, why won't it happen to Mum or Dad when they walk out the door?"

Calavrias celebrates his birthday with grandchildren, from left, Zack, Dimitri and Louie.

Calavrias celebrates his birthday with grandchildren, from left, Zack, Dimitri and Louie.

His family – wife Sarah and sons Zacharias, 9, Dimitri, 7, and Louie, 5 – have used counselling provided by victim support to deal with Calavrias Sr's death, and made trips to Taupō, where the accident happened, to help them heal.

"We've got some professional counselling that we're using quite regularly for Zacharias," he said.

"He's grieving, he's hurting, he's struggling. And the other boys hurt in their own ways.

Son Nick Calavrias Jr says: "It's hard for kids to really understand, and they get really insecure. If that can happen ...

Son Nick Calavrias Jr says: "It's hard for kids to really understand, and they get really insecure. If that can happen to Papou, why won't it happen to Mum or Dad when they walk out the door?"

"One day Papou's here, and the next day he's not."

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There was no telling when counselling would end, he said. "I think it's an ongoing journey."

Calavrias Sr was a former chief executive of Wellington company Steel & Tube, and an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. But for Calavrias Jr, his wife Sarah and their family, he was much more than that.

Samuel Trotter was sentenced in Napier District Court for careless driving causing the death of Nick Calavrias Sr.

Samuel Trotter was sentenced in Napier District Court for careless driving causing the death of Nick Calavrias Sr.

"We're not a big family. There's my younger brother, Chris, and mum [Mariana]. So that's it, really.

"Dad was the sort of patriarch of the family, really. When something like this happens to a small family, it's massive in many respects."

The man responsible for Calavrias' death, Samuel Trotter, who was 22 at the time of the accident, told police he became distracted when he turned to look at a motocross track he had visited a few years earlier.

Calavrias Jr has always found this difficult to understand, given the clear conditions on the day of the accident and the long, dry stretch of road it occurred on.

After reading in The Dominion Post that only 4 or 5 per cent of people involved in a crash later admitted to using a cellphone at the time, he called for more to be done to determine how often phones were a factor in crashes.

"They're used in other criminal investigations, so why not in road accidents, to the same extent?

"They're as close to a 'black box' as possible."

He said he was not claiming a cellphone was to blame for his father's death, but said questions remained.

"It's the gap of information, and the effect that has on victims and families and friends, where there's just question marks.

"Unanswered questions are a sentence for the family."

​Trotter was charged with careless driving. He was sentenced to community detention and supervision, and banned from driving for 12 months.

Calavrias Sr's death is being reviewed by the coroner.

 - Stuff

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