Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

'Breathe baby, breathe': Mother recalls horrific crash

A Pukehina mother and her two small children were seriously injured after being struck by a car while out walking on Otamarakau Valley Rd. Photo / File
A Pukehina mother and her two small children were seriously injured after being struck by a car while out walking on Otamarakau Valley Rd. Photo / File

"Breathe baby, breathe."

Those were the desperate cries of a mother to her seriously injured son, as she lay bleeding on the side of the road, unable to reach him.

It was September 12 last year when the mother was pushing her son and daughter in a pram, along Otamarakau Valley Rd.

Raymond Cecil Horscroft, 75, was driving home in the same direction when he fell asleep, and awoke to see his SUV careering towards the trio, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

He pulled the steering wheel hard to the left. It was too late.

The mother yesterday described for the first time her fears for her son and daughter after the crash when she read her victim impact statement in Tauranga Community Magistrates' Court where Horscroft was sentenced.

Through tears she described how her injuries had prevented her from reaching her seriously injured son and daughter on that horrible day.

She told the court she vividly remembered crying out "breathe baby, breathe" to her son, now aged 16 months, as she anxiously waited for the rescue helicopter to arrive.

I lay in Tauranga Hospital not being able to visit or hold my children... it is something no mother should ever have to face and it caused serious separation anxiety.
Mother

The mother suffered serious injuries to her leg and back and her son, who was 11-months-old at the time, sustained severe injuries to his body and head and spent weeks in Starship Hospital.

Her 2-year-old daughter was propelled about 10m through the air and came to rest on a farm track. She was also hospitalised after with several injuries, including to her face.

The mother said the stress and trauma of their ordeal was almost indescribable, particularly being separated from her injured children who were treated in different hospitals.

"I lay in Tauranga Hospital not being able to visit or hold my children... it is something no mother should ever have to face and it caused serious separation anxiety."

Read more: Woman who caused fatal crash also guilty of theft

Every time she looked down at the scars on her leg memories of that "horrific" day came flooding back, she said.

The woman wept as she told Community Magistrate Robyn Paterson that last week she and her husband learned their brave boy had permanently lost the hearing in his left ear.

She said she and her family continued to struggle both emotionally and financially and the impacts were likely to be with them for "years to come".

Horscroft, 75, was yesterday ordered to pay $25,000 to his victims and disqualified from driving for six months after he earlier pleaded guilty to three charges of careless driving causing injury.

His lawyer Tony Balme said his client was still horrified that his carelessness had caused this "tragic incident", and the impacts on the family were not lost on him.

Horscroft, who suffered from sleep apnoea problems at the time of the crash, had taken steps to address his medical difficulties, and offered to pay $10,000 emotional harm to his victims, which he could do immediately, he said.

Police prosecutor David Pawson argued that was inadequate given the ongoing impacts on his victims.

Mrs Paterson said the "horrific incident" was caused by momentary inattention and a lapse of judgement and therefore the degree of culpability was clearly at the lower end of the scale. She accepted Horscroft's letter of remorse was sincere.

Mrs Paterson said she also noted Horscroft was a first time offender in court and had never even had a traffic infringement notice before.

Given the circumstances a "punitive or retributive sentence" was not warranted.

"The court is very, very mindful of the consequences of this horrific ordeal on you and your family, but what it does today can only ever be a token gesture," she told the mother.

"No amount of money is going to cure your pain or fully compensate you for your losses, or restore your and your children's health back to what it was before this horrific day."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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