Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Judge calls for camera technology on large trucks after fatal cyclist crash

Truck driver David Peter Connell has now been convicted for careless driving causing the death of cyclists on two separate occasions. Photo: Kurt Bayer/NZ Herald
Truck driver David Peter Connell has now been convicted for careless driving causing the death of cyclists on two separate occasions. Photo: Kurt Bayer/NZ Herald

A truck driver who ran over and killed a tourist cyclist - nine years after killing a Wellington cyclist - has today avoided jail in a case that prompted a judge to call for camera technology to be used on large trucks.

David Peter Connell - who was earlier found guilty of careless driving causing death of Taiwanese tourist Ming-Cheh Hsieh in 2014 - was sentenced to community detention and ordered to do 200 hours of community work and pay his victim's family $7000 at Christchurch District Court this afternoon.

Hsieh, 33, was struck by 51-year-old Connell's truck and trailer unit at a Christchurch intersection in the Hornby suburb and died at the scene.

In 2005, Stephen Craig Avery died while cycling to work on the Kapiti Coast north of Wellington when he was struck by a truck being driven by Connell.

Taiwanese visitor Ming-Chih Hsieh. Photo / Supplied
Taiwanese visitor Ming-Chih Hsieh. Photo / Supplied

Connell has now twice been convicted for careless driving causing the death of a cyclist.

Today at Christchurch District Court, police pushed for a sentence of three months in jail.

Defence counsel Kerry Cook said Connell this afternoon issued a sincere apology to the Hsieh family, and had also done so in his police interview at the time.

"The loss of a son is more than anyone should bear," Cook said.

Connell would have liked to have met the family and had offered to do so via Skype but that offer was "understandably" declined.

"No one sets out to be careless," Cook said.

These types of careless driving causing death cases were "horrendous", Cook said, because for a "non-intended event, the consequences are so tragic".

Today's offer of $7000 in emotional harm reparation was a "significant amount" of money for Connell who is not currently working and had to take a loan to cover it, Cook said.

Connell pleaded not guilty ahead of a judge-alone trial in Christchurch District Court in May.

Judge Gary MacAskill said Connell was a professional and experienced driver, who was aware of the vehicle's blind spots.

He found that although Connell didn't know whether a cyclist was in the cycling lane, he took no precaution at all against that risk and should have known he had the option to wait a few seconds.

"He ought to have known that this option was available to him," Judge MacAskill said in his judgement.

"The fact that he thought he was driving carefully is not the point. A reasonable careful driver would have responded to the risk by waiting a few seconds, to be sure that there was no unseen cyclist in the cycle lane and that the way was clear for him to turn left."

Stephen Avery's sister says the family has never received an apology from Connell.
Stephen Avery's sister says the family has never received an apology from Connell.

Stephen Avery's sister Lesley has called for Connell to be banned from driving trucks.

It still hurts that her family never received an apology.

"I saw a photo of him sitting in the court and he didn't look at all remorseful. It looked like he was just sitting there thinking, 'God, this is another waste of time'," Lesley Avery said.

"We've had to move on because nothing is going to bring [Stephen] back. It had ripped my family apart, my immediate family ... I miss my brother so much because we were so close."

Lesley Avery said she hoped Hsieh's family could now gain some peace.

"Apparently he apologised to them and that was nice to know. The thing that gutted me and my family is he didn't contact us at all."

Judge MacAskill said the death of the Hsieh family's only son "has been a disaster for them".

He sentenced Connell to four months of community detention with a 7.30pm - 5.30am curfew, as well as 200 hours of community work and ordered him to pay the victim's family $7000 in reparation for financial loss and emotional harm. He was also disqualified from driving for a period of 12 months from today.

At the end of sentencing, Judge MacAskill said he did not understand why there are not requirements for trucks "with massive blind spots" to use camera technology.

He hoped the issue would be raised at any future inquest in Hsieh's death.

- NZ Herald

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