"Isolated offending entirely out of character, on one occasion, with terrible, terrible and tragic consequences." That's how Judge Tony Snell described the actions of Rotorua general surgeon Dr Blaithin Page at her Rotorua District Court sentencing yesterday. Her work focuses on lengthening and saving lives, but on an overcast and drizzly morning last spring she made a driving mistake that took the life of an adored and widely known Good Samaritan, Francisca Hawkes-Buchanan. Hawkes-Buchanan's family spoke exclusively to the Rotorua Daily Post afterward the court case.
Sam Hawkes would see his grandmother, Francisca, every day as a child - she lived upstairs in his family home.
Now every day on the way to work he drives past the spot where she was fatally hit by a car.
Yesterday in the Rotorua District Court, surgeon Blaithin Patricia Page was sentenced for careless driving causing death, after colliding with elderly motor scooter rider and award-winning community devotee Francisca Hawkes-Buchanan.
Page cried silently and her hair hung over her bowed face as she was sentenced to complete 100 hours community work, to pay $5000 in emotional harm payment, and was disqualified from driving for 15 months.
The crash happened on September 25 last year at 7.25am when Page was on her way to work at Rotorua Hospital.
She pulled out from the Give Way sign at the T-intersection of Arawa St and Rangiuru St.
Page didn't see Hawkes-Buchanan, despite her bright helmet and scooter, and headlight shining.
The 87-year-old was knocked off her scooter and slid to the other side of the road.
Page tried to help at the scene but Hawkes-Buchanan died later that day from her internal bleeding.
Sam Hawkes struggled to keep his voice from wobbling as he explained to the Rotorua Daily Post how that "normal day turned into a nightmare".
He recalled how his father, John, "a staunch, brave male who never faltered with his emotions", sat in the waiting room distant from reality.
Sam had to call his brother on his way from Wellington to say he wouldn't make it in time.
"I don't think anyone intended for her to pass ... but I have always believed all actions have consequences."
Judge Snell described how Hawkes-Buchanan "was a supportive mother, a supportive grandmother, a staunch member of the Catholic Church and was involved in 50 years of community service".
She volunteered with groups ranging from the RSA to the Red Cross and even Rotorua Hospital.
Upon leaving the court, John Hawkes said he was happy with the outcome of the court case.
He said his mother was a forgiving woman but "was also a strident advocate for doing what was right and seeing that justice was fairly applied".
"If you can pay it forward, then that is what you do."
He said the family struggled to refer to their mother in the past tense.
"I held my mother's hand as her life ebbed away, after the machines sustaining her life were turned off. Her injuries were too great to survive. It was not the death I envisaged for her, ever."
Hawkes was still reeling from his mother's death when, just over three months later, he was hit at high-speed when riding in a cycling bunch in a hit and run in January. He was thrown over the bonnet of the vehicle and is still recovering from his injuries.
The police tracked down the vehicle at fault, but the registered owner, Wayne Craig Hunt, 23, from Sunnybrook, would not divulge who was driving at the time.
Hunt pleaded guilty to failing to provide information to police, and was sentenced last week to pay a $400 fine and court costs of $130.
Hawke's wife and children said his crash brought the sorrow of losing their grandmother back to the surface.
Page's lawyer, Andrew Schulze, said she made a mistake anyone could make and was unlikely to reoffend.
He applied for a discharge without conviction, arguing that Page had a clear record, was applying to Immigration New Zealand to continue her work, that a conviction could undermine her patients' trust and confidence in her, and that she was remorseful.
Judge Snell acknowledged Page had pleaded guilty at the earliest possible time and attended restorative justice where she apologised to Hawkes-Buchanan's family.
The judge said Page had been unable to return to work initially, had needed counselling, and took a defensive driving course.
"There is little more you could have done," he told her.
He said Hawkes-Buchanan had had a bright motorcycle and helmet, and had the headlight on and the drizzly weather conditions "would highlight the need for extra caution" at the time.
He did not think the conviction would impact Page's immigration status or employment.
"In some ways they [patients] have a right to know who their doctor is."
Not all of Hawkes-Buchanan's family had supported a discharge without conviction.
Page's community work will be a medical placement honouring Hawkes-Buchanan's work.
She was hugged and kissed by supporters as she returned from the stand, but did not want to speak to media.