Fatal Carterton crash driver faces trial

By Kelli Hooks -
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FATAL CRASH: The ute that crashed into the side of a train in Carterton in February.
FATAL CRASH: The ute that crashed into the side of a train in Carterton in February.

A young man who crashed his ute into the side of a Wairarapa commuter train resulting in the death of a 15-year-old girl will face trial early next year.

Jonathan Caleb Painter, 20, from Mangatainoka, pleaded not guilty at an earlier appearance to a charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Grace Ellen Diedrichs, 15.

On February 17, the Carterton schoolgirl was killed when the ute she was a passenger in, driven by Painter, struck the side of a southbound commuter train at the Wiltons Rd crossing in Carterton.

She was flung 20 metres from the passenger seat and died at the scene. Painter was taken to the Wairarapa Hospital high dependency unit with head injuries.

In a case review hearing in Masterton District Court on Monday, Painter sought to have the charge downgraded to careless driving causing death, for which the maximum penalty is less severe.

If convicted of dangerous driving causing death, Painter could face a maximum 10 years' imprisonment, or a $20,000 fine, and a minimum of one year's disqualification.

Careless driving causing death carries a maximum penalty of three months' imprisonment, or a fine of $4500, or less, and disqualification for six months.

Painter's lawyer, Jock Blathwayt, asked for an adjournment for the Crown prosecutor to consider a traffic accident report, which he said excluded dangerous driving, but not necessarily careless driving, as the cause of the crash.

Crown prosecutor Miriam Wilkinson said the Crown had already considered the report and would not be changing its position on the charge.

Mr Blathwayt said he was "astonished".

Judge Chris Tuohy remanded Painter on bail to appear in Wellington District Court, on January 21, for a call-over before trial.

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