John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Ten years for drugged driver

Kiwi clobbered in hit-and-run.

Michael Torckler in Auckland yesterday. Photo / Doug Sherring
Michael Torckler in Auckland yesterday. Photo / Doug Sherring

An American who left a Kiwi cyclist for dead will spend at least eight years in prison.

Michael Torckler's world turned upside-down when American motorist Arthur Yu, who has admitted being high on drugs and booze, drove into him in California in June.

Torckler, who has no recollection of the incident, was left with 20 facial fractures and a broken arm. In court yesterday in Santa Rosa, Yu was given 10 years and 4 months' imprisonment.

"He's done something wrong and now he needs to do the time," Torckler told the Herald on Sunday.

"Hopefully, the sentence is helpful to him. I don't want to be bitter, I just want to get on with life."

Yu, who has already spent 154 days in custody, will stay in jail until at least 2020. "He will serve 80 per cent of his remaining sentence," deputy district attorney Barbara Nanney said.

Nanney said in interviews with probation last month Yu indicated he had taken alcohol, magic mushrooms and marijuana on the day of the crash.

"That's all news to me," Torckler said.

After hitting Torckler, Yu fled the scene, but was later arrested. Yu had been driving a car he stole from his father. He later pleaded no contest to charges of hit-and-run, reckless driving causing injury, car theft and possession of stolen property.

"I don't have too many emotions towards him." Torckler said after the sentencing. "I did meet him at the court one time but I never spoke to him or anything."

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat said Yu did not speak at his sentencing as he stood in a blue jail uniform before the judge. Members of the cycling community were also in court to see Yu sentenced. Outside court, a mental health advocate told the Press Democrat Yu had bi-polar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

Torckler, in Auckland this weekend after placing second in the Round Lake Taupo race last weekend, was spared the courtroom commotion and looked forward to a weekend of training and relaxing.

He had never considered giving up cycling and said the speed of his recovery amazed his doctors.

Twelve days after the crash he was out of hospital. After a month, he was back in the saddle on an indoor bike.

A few weeks later, he was confident enough to train on the open road again, despite some last-minute nerves.

"I wasn't nervous when I was thinking about it, but when I actually got on the bike I was quite cautious and very aware of what was around me."

Torckler played a significant role as a helper in his United States-based Bissell Pro Cycling Team during the Tour of Southland a month ago.

Torckler will spend the summer training in Auckland before returning to California in mid-February to train with his team.

Torckler was taking his future one race at a time, but his dreams are to race at the Olympics or the Tour de France.

- Herald on Sunday

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