US tourist who killed two women in car crash to pay victims' families

By Lindy Laird

Thomas Springer, convicted in Kaikohe Court for careless driving causing two deaths and one of causing injury. Photo/Lindy Laird
Thomas Springer, convicted in Kaikohe Court for careless driving causing two deaths and one of causing injury. Photo/Lindy Laird

An American tourist who admitted killing two Northland women in a car crash has been convicted and will pay reparation of $24,200 to the victims' families.

Thomas James Springer, 66, appeared for sentencing in the Kaikohe District Court today.

Springer earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of careless driving causing the deaths of 29-year-old Ahipara woman Kylee Anne Rakich, who was eight months' pregnant with a daughter, and 44-year-old Whangarei woman Virginia Keogh. He also admitted a charge of driving causing injury of the 21-year-old man who was driving the car carrying the two women. The maximum penalty for the offences is three months' jail and/or a fine.

Kylee Anne Rakich , 29, was killed when the vehicle she was a passenger in collided with Thomas James Springer's car. Photo / Supplied
Kylee Anne Rakich , 29, was killed when the vehicle she was a passenger in collided with Thomas James Springer's car. Photo / Supplied

The 5-year-old daughter of Ms Rakich was also injured in the crash on State Highway 10 at Puketona on April 30.

The public gallery was full with family members of the two women and a series of emotional victim harm statements were read to the court.

The retired Californian businessman and his wife had been in the Bay of Islands for a short holiday when he drove their rental car into an oncoming car on SH10.

Springer was today convicted on the three charges and offered to pay a total of $24,200 to the families, with $20,000 paid into the court today.

He was not ordered to pay any fines, given the level of reparation, but was disqualified from driving for 18 months on each of the charges.

Family members spoken to outside the court said it was now time for many of them to move on.

Kylee Rakich's father Joe Rakich and sister Alicia (Leash) King give victim impact statements in Kaihohe Court. Photo / Lindy Laird
Kylee Rakich's father Joe Rakich and sister Alicia (Leash) King give victim impact statements in Kaihohe Court. Photo / Lindy Laird

They said a restorative justice meeting between some family members and Springer held in Kaitaia on Wednesday had helped all sides overcome the tragedy. At the end of that meeting attendees embraced each other.

Springer's lawyer Michael Dodds had told the court his client had a brain tumour and needed to be back in the United States for treatment.

Judge Greg Davis had delayed sentencing until today to give the grieving families time to meet Springer at a restorative justice hui. He also took the unusual step of opening Kaikohe District Court on a Saturday for sentencing.

Springer will now return to the US for treatment.

- NZ Herald

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