Crash fugitive loses licence for one year

By Michele McPherson

A man who fled the scene of a crash that left a promising Tauranga sportsman seriously injured has lost his licence for a year.

Jonathan Martelli lost control of his car on the newly sealed entrance to the Tect Arena at Baypark in September last year, sliding in the loose gravel and smashing head-on into then 16-year-old scooter rider Alex Schipper.

The impact flung the promising basketball star, who had been working at a Breakers match at the Tect Arena, on to the bonnet of Martelli's car.

The 2.08m athlete - who had been hand-picked to attend a Junior Breaker's Academy basketball camp - slid to the ground with several fractures to his right leg.

Martelli, now 21, paused in his car long enough to see bystanders rush to help Alex, and notice a security car headed towards him, before taking off.

The next day he handed himself in to Rotorua police and was charged with careless driving causing injury and failing to stop and ascertain whether anyone was injured.

Martelli, who works as a farm manager in Reporoa, went to Tauranga Hospital to apologise to Alex and paid reparation of $2400 for the cost of the scooter, which was new. He also paid Alex another $2600 to cover medical costs and loss of wages.

Alex started walking without crutches five weeks ago, was due to start casual work at Tect Arena again today and was to head back to the surgeon tomorrow.

He hopes that within a year's time he will be able to return to the level of basketball he was playing before the accident.

Now 17, Alex told the Bay of Plenty Times he had forgiven Martelli.

"Me and him are on pretty good terms. He's done everything right [since the crash]," he said.

In the Tauranga District Court yesterday, Judge Paul Geoghan said once Martelli understood the enormity of his actions he had done everything he could to put things right.

But he described Martelli's decision to leave the scene of the accident as "an appalling error of judgment".

"You have put it down to panic and I can understand that to a degree," he said.

Martelli had not been speeding and Judge Geoghan described his driving as careless rather than reckless or dangerous.

"Just too fast for the conditions," he said.

However, Judge Geoghan said a sense of, "respect and common decency" should have seen Martelli remain at the scene of the life-changing accident.

"This is a situation that's difficulty to impose an appropriate sentence because in respect of the victim nothing can recover what he may have lost," he said.

He asked Martelli if he knew how his victim was recovering and he replied that he was able to walk again.

Judge Geoghan gave Martelli, "very significant credit" for handing himself in to police, for meeting his victim and paying reparation.

He also took Martelli's previously clean record into account.

"I have no doubt that you are in the category of offenders who will not be coming back to the courts," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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