'You took away the rest of my life': Partner of killed Dunedin man Riley Baker speaks out

Dunedin photographer Riley Baker with dog Tank. Riley was killed in a car crash. Photo / Supplied
Dunedin photographer Riley Baker with dog Tank. Riley was killed in a car crash. Photo / Supplied

The grief-stricken partner of a Dunedin man killed in a car crash near Shag Point told the tourist responsible for the man's death that he has stolen her future.

Chinese tourist Limin Ma was yesterday sentenced to community work after he drove his rented car over the centre line and into the path of Riley Baker last month.

The 26-year-old Dunedin photographer was taken to Dunedin Hospital by helicopter in a critical condition after the crash on August 13.

He was declared dead two days later.

Judge Kevin Phillips sentenced Ma to 150 hours' community work, disqualified him from driving for two years and ordered him to pay Mr Baker's family $30,000.

Mr Baker's family and partner told the Dunedin District Court of the grief and turmoil they had faced since the crash.

"You have taken away what I personally believe was the rest of my life,'' his partner, Amy McCarthy, told Ma.

"For us there was no doubt we were in love and never wanted to be apart.''

She was still haunted by the Riley's last moments.

"He had a stroke, his brain was swelling and, unfortunately, there wasn't much more they could do,'' she said.

"That's when it sunk in. That's when I had to come to face that Riley and I wouldn't have the life I thought we would have.

"We would never curl up on the couch on a lazy Sunday with our pets and children.''

Mr Baker was a careful motorcyclist, who took all precautions he could.

"If you did not see Riley driving towards you, you did something wrong,'' she said.

"He was there to be seen.

"In a year or two, this may be over for you. But every day for the rest of my life I will continue to have a Riley-sized hole in my heart.''

Mr Baker's sister, Sarah Baker, described the moment she saw her brother lying on a hospital bed with a ventilator assisting him to breath.

"It was horrific,'' she said.

"The most horrific thing I have seen.

"I have never felt so helpless. As his older sister I have always looked out for him. That night, I could do nothing.''

She was reeling in the wake of the loss of her "loyal, responsible, disciplined and intelligent'' younger brother.

"I never got to say goodbye,'' she said.

"I never got to hug him one more time.

"I never got to tell him I loved him one more time.

"It was all taken away that day Mr Ma hit Riley in his big car.''

Mr Baker's mother, Julie Baker, said she only realised the shocking impact of the crash when she saw her son's motorcycle and Mr Ma's rented vehicle.

"When I saw those two vehicles shattered, I realised the crash was just horrendous,'' she said.

"He had so much to give. He was an extremely talented young man and extremely caring.

"I now only have memories to cling to.''

Police prosecutor Tim Hambleton said he accepted the court could not impose a sentence to alleviate the victims' grief.

"No sentence the court can impose can compensate the family or his partner for their grief,'' he said.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens said Ma was also grieving the loss he had caused.

"That is the greatest consequence for him,'' she said.

"Regardless of sentence, at the expiry of sentence, that sense of grief and hurt that he has ... ended the life of a young man stays with him.''

Ma had no prior criminal history, in China or abroad, and had a clean driving record.

"He is a man of good character, of responsible habits and a caring disposition,'' she said.

Judge Phillips said such tragedies were too common.

"A moment's loss of concentration has resulted in the loss of Mr Baker's life,'' he said.

"You are a person who will carry that tragedy for their life, however long that will be.''

A sentence of imprisonment was never an option considering the charge Ma faced and in sentencing him to community work he wanted him to do something to "give back'', Judge Phillips said.

After the sentencing, Mr Baker's family declined to comment.

- Otago Daily Times

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