Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Logging truck driver must meet victims

File photo / Alan Gibson
File photo / Alan Gibson

The Bay of Plenty man who left 35 children in hospital when his logging truck slammed into the back of their school bus wants to personally apologise to the victims.

Joe Nika Morehu, of Ruatoki, has admitted charges including careless driving causing injury to 16 people on September 5 last year. In Whakatane District Court yesterday, the 42-year-old also admitted drinking and driving in a separate episode.

In setting bail conditions, Judge Robert Wolff ordered him to undergo a 10-week restorative justice programme, which would involve meetings with victims of the crash - many of whom are his relatives.

Local community leader and Tuhoe activist Tame Iti said many families remained affected by the crash but were ready to forgive Morehu.

Morehu's lawyer, Miharo Armstrong, said his client's thoughts had been foremost with the children and he was keen to be accept responsibility.

The court heard there was no evidence Morehu's truck swerved or braked before colliding with the bus, shunting it 80m through a fence and into a paddock.

A blood sample was found to contain tetrahydrocannabinol - the active ingredient of cannabis.

Morehu had also started work at 4am, resting for less than two hours, and made omissions to his log book.

Three months later, Morehu crashed a car. He was later processed with 165mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

But as it was his first time before the courts, Judge Wolff told him it was unlikely he would receive a jail sentence when he appears again on July 4.

- NZ Herald

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