Foreign driver to pay $27k for fatal crash

Foreign driver to pay $27k for fatal crash

Wei Kiong Lew has been sentenced to home detention and ordered to pay emotional harm after crossing a yellow line and killing an oncoming motorcyclist in Otago in November.

The crash,on State Highway 1 south of Oamaru, occurred after the rental car being driven by Lew crossed straight into the path of 39-year-old Craig Alan Chambers. Mr Chambers was coming back from the Burt Munro Challenge in Queenstown and died at the scene.

The car also crashed into a rural post vehicle and a Nissan hatchback.

Lew, from Singapore, pleaded not guilty earlier in the year to dangerous driving charges. These charges were then downgraded in April to aggravated driving causing death and three charges of aggravated driving causing injury, to which he pleaded guilty.

The 30-year-old has been sentenced to four months home detention for aggravated careless driving causing death, 200 hours' community work and must pay $27,000 emotional harm reparation to the wife of Mr Chambers. Lew has also been disqualified from driving for 18 months.

Lew has spent 200 hours working at the Buddhist Centre in Dunedin doing community service. He is not based in New Zealand and has required accommodation while here. He has been housed by the Buddhist Centre and PARS Otago, a social services organisation.

A victim impact statement was read out by Mr Chambers' wife in Dunedin District Court. She says her and their seven-year-old daughter Stevie continue to "face the reality of him not being here".

"I've lost a piece of me...we were a tight unit of three."

Ms Chambers says she does not have any immediate family in Motueka, where they live, to help maintain their garden and home. She says she was once an outgoing and enthusiastic person but since the incident, now has trouble sleeping and is struggling.

"We had future plans on the calendar but you have taken that from us."

Mr Chambers worked as an earthmoving contractor and was described as "larger than life". Ms Chambers says her husband had a great sense of humour and was a careful driver. He operated heavy machinery, she says, and would never put himself or anyone else at risk.

"We were supposed to grow old together."

Ms Chambers' sister read out a statement on behalf of their mother Barbara Tee, calling Lew a reckless driver who should never have been allowed to drive on New Zealand roads.

The Crown suggested a starting point 14-16 months imprisonment for sentencing.

The defence recommended a period of home detention, emotional harm payment and license disqualification.

Defence lawyer Anna Stevens says Lew has expressed his remorse consistently since the accident six months ago. He has a very good driving record, has no demerit points, owns a car in Singapore and drives regularly for work. Lew lives in public housing with his parents back home. His partner suffered a serious head injury in the accident

Judge Kevin Phillips said Lew was speeding, travelling at 120 km/h and there was no evidence of braking marks on the road.

"It was a quick tragedy."

Judge Phillips says it was suggested Lew suffered a "micro sleep" which caused him to cross the road.

"You fell asleep and you cannot then remember what had occurred."

He says it was nothing to do with his lack of experience on New Zealand roads or to do with hiring a rental car and not being properly trained. 

"Your carelessness is not at the top level of aggravated driving."