The grieving widow of a man killed by a runaway van that careered down a driveway and pinned him to the foundations of the home he was building says she can now move on with her life.
Andrew Charles Cundy, 40, of Pyes Pa was found guilty of careless operation of a motor vehicle causing death after a defended hearing before Judge Robert Wolff in Tauranga District Court yesterday.
The summary of facts detailed how Cundy parked his work van uphill at the top of a steep driveway in Castlewold Drive, Bethlehem, in October 2010, and applied the handbrake with an "extra click" to ensure it held. However, he failed to park the van in gear or turn the van's wheels away from the kerb, as recommended in the New Zealand Road Code.
About 10 or 15 minutes later the handbrake failed and the van careered down the driveway and across the road at speed, collecting Shi Jun Zhang and pinning him to the ground.
Mr Zhang had been standing on the driveway talking to two other workers when he was caught by the vehicle and dragged underneath it. Mr Zhang, 53, had been working on the foundations of his new house and died at the scene, despite attempts to resuscitate him.
Cundy declined to comment last night. However, a Zhang family friend David Leong said the verdict had finally brought the grieving family closure.
Mr Zhang's family have moved to Auckland. Mr Leong said the guilty verdict had been received as good news by the family.
"It has been hard for them to grieve," Mr Leong said.
The family had not been aware of the judicial process or outcome until the Bay of Plenty Times made contact through Mr Leong.
English was not the Chinese family's first language but, through Mr Leong, Mr Zhang's widow expressed relief that someone had been held accountable.
Through Mr Leong, she said: "You need to be aware that the car might roll. Such things can happen.
"It cost a person's life to learn a lesson. Hopefully no one else will need to go through this."
The Zhangs migrated to New Zealand from China to work on property development, including the property where Mr Zhang died.
Mrs Zhang indicated she would return to Tauranga to attend Cundy's sentencing in July.
Mr Leong said the death of his friend could at least serve as a warning to other motorists to take more care when parking vehicles.
"I think people need to be aware that sometimes such a thing can be prevented if we are more careful. Because at the end of the day the whole thing of going through the [court process] and finding out what the problem was... things like this don't need to happen."
A resident of Castlewold Drive who remembered the incident said it was "really awful".
"But at the same time I feel sorry for the guy whose van it was," the woman said.
"It's an accident really. It was nothing intentional, just one of those awful things."
The woman, who spoke on the condition she was not named, said she did not think the man responsible should have been charged.
"He didn't go out to kill the guy. It Runaway van tragedy
Safe parking guidelines
Following the guidelines below will ensure that when you park your vehicle it won't move forward or backward:
When parking uphill on a steep road: turn the front wheels away from the kerb and leave your car in first gear if it's manual or in park if it's automatic.
When parking downhill on a steep road: turn the front wheels towards the kerb leave your car in reverse gear if it's manual or in park if it's automatic.
wasn't dangerous driving or drink driving. [Mr Zhang] was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's pretty lucky it didn't hit anyone else."
Yesterday, the court was told there was no evidence of vehicle mechanical fault.
Police argued that Cundy's driving on that day in parking up without following the steps advised in the road code fell below the standard of driving required of a reasonable, prudent driver.
Cundy's lawyer Rachael Adams argued her client could not have foreseen the handbrake releasing for some "unexplained or inexplicable" reason and his driving actions that day did not meet the legal threshold test required to satisfy a criminal conviction for carelessness.
"Mr Cundy had parked up in the same way in the same place for some eight weeks without incident and otherwise he had a well-maintained vehicle with no mechanical issues," she said.
Judge Wolff disagreed.
He said: "I'm satisfied the elements which go to make up this charge have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
"I am satisfied that no reasonable prudent driver would rely on a single mechanical brake as a safeguard to prevent rollback and I'm satisfied it was careless to do so.
"The advisory note in the road code is sound advice and I'm satisfied a reasonable, prudent driver should follow that advice."
Ms Adams urged Judge Wolff not to enter a conviction until she had a chance to make submissions with the view to seeking a discharge without conviction.
But Judge Wolff said he would enter a conviction at this stage but that did not prevent a discharge without conviction application being considered. Cundy is due to be sentenced on July 6.