The Dutch businessman accused of running a stop sign and causing a crash that killed a Christchurch woman and two 12-year old girls has pleaded guilty today.

Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, appeared at Christchurch District Court to admit causing the deaths of Sally Vanessa Summerfield, 49, her daughter Ella Yasmin Summerfield, 12, and Ella's friend Abi Hone, 12, on May 31.

Ms Summerfield's 48-year-old husband Shane, who was driving, suffered serious injuries.

Appelman was given a registrar's remand three days after the crash, and was due to appear next month.


In a surprise appearance today, he pleaded guilty to three counts of careless use of a vehicle causing death and one charge of careless use of a vehicle causing injury.

Appelman, who received minor injuries in the crash, ran a stop sign at the Thompsons Track and Somerton Road intersection near Rakaia. His car collided with a Volvo carrying the four people from Christchurch on their way to visiting family friends at Lake Ohau.

Appelman, who was represented by Christchurch lawyer Phil Shamy, stood in the dock today in a sling.

Appelman's Christchurch lawyer Phil Shamy said his client was "a man of substance" who has "clearly accepted he was in the wrong".

He wanted to meet the Hone and Summerfield families when they were ready, Mr Shamy said.

Mr Shamy said Appelman had no memory of the accident.

"It's simply a blank to him, however, he does accept responsibility for it," Mr Shamy said.

What happened was a moment of inattention which has had "remarkably tragic" consequences, the lawyer told the court.

A bid to have his bail conditions varied today was declined by Judge John Strettell. Details of the application were suppressed.

Appelman was remanded on existing bail to be sentenced at Christchurch District Court on July 16.

The judge called for a probation report to address the issue of reparation.

Both Appelman and Mr Shamy refused to comment as they left court today.

Early this month The Christchurch Star revealed Appelman had been involved in a previous crash in Canterbury.

Senior Sergeant Scott Banfield confirmed Appelman had been involved in another accident, but wouldn't say when it happened.

Media tonight said it had happened on the same day Appelman's car hit the Summerfields' vehicle.

"We are aware of that [previous crash]. We have information at hand and are investigating that," he told The Star.

"It took place in Canterbury. There was no other party involved."

Senior Sergeant Banfield would not discuss any other details of the previous crash. However, he said it formed a part of the police investigation into the fatal crash near Rakaia.

Contrary to previous reports, Appelman was not a tourist, but a regular visitor to Canterbury.

- additional reporting Max Towle