If either of two construction companies in charge of a Waikato road works site had followed key health and safety procedures a young mother of two would not have died, a Hamilton judge has found.
Transfield Services New Zealand, which has changed its name to Broadspectrum New Zealand since the crash, and NZ Traffic Hamilton were ordered to pay about $210,000 in fines and reparation in the death of Te Kauwhata woman Veronique Bond, 38, after a truck reversed over her as she sat on her scooter at road works on Island Block Rd on March 4, 2015.
In a scathing reserved decision released to the Herald, Judge Philip Connell listed a series of failures by the companies stating "the defendants' standard of compliance can only be described as lax at best" and the "pointlessness" of identifying hazards without following procedures to avoid them.
Transfield employee John Gisborne was also sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on January 20 for his part in the crash.
He was ordered to pay $2000 reparation to the Bond family after being convicted of careless driving causing death. The judge declined to hand down a licence disqualification because of his lower culpability.
Transfield won the Waikato District Council road-widening project in February 2015. Transfield sub-contracted the site's traffic management to NZ Traffic Hamilton.
On the day of the crash, Bond was on her way to the Manukau Institute of Technology, where she was in her third year of a marketing and communication degree.
She had travelled 4km from her Falls Rd home when she came up behind Gisborne's truck carrying metal.
Bond followed the truck into Island Block Rd, where traffic management was set up, driving past NZ Traffic employee Kareama Witika who was controlling the stop/go sign.
The truck stopped and she pulled in behind. Realising the site wasn't ready for the load of stone chip, Gisborne reversed his truck. Bond was killed instantly, suffering multiple critical head and torso injuries.
The truck's reverse lights weren't working and its reversing alarm was intermittent.
Court documents show that on the day of the crash, only one of four NZ Traffic staff had been inducted into Transfield's policies and work practices.
Transfield produced a contract quality plan to explain how the Waikato District Council's safety requirements would be met. However, when asked for the document by Worksafe investigators it could not be found and it is claimed it went "missing" after the accident.
"How they went missing, whether by accident, intentionally or by uplifting in my mind adds to the overall impression of a poor standard of compliance with the [H&S] Act," the judge said.
Judge Connell found that Bond would have survived if just one of four steps had been carried out by staff on that day. They include Bond being stopped by Witika at the stop/go sign, the advice that she was on the site being heard on radio, there being a spotter or reversing camera on the truck and road cones being set up.
"In fact, of the failures just mentioned, had one of these practical steps worked in the way intended by the defendants, again the tragedy would not have occurred. The fact is there was a very poor standard of compliance with the planned 'practicable steps' on the work site."
NZ Traffic's hazard sheet stated the risk of reversing vehicles should be minimised by using a spotter at all times. One wasn't used.
Transfield, or Broadspectrum, pleaded guilty to charges of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure its employees, including Gisborne and the site's project manager, failed to ensure Veronique Bond was not exposed to any hazards, and failing to notify Worksafe of excavation work more than 1.5m deep.
NZ Traffic Hamilton admitted failing to take all practicable steps to ensure its employees, site traffic management supervisor Keith Beer and stop/go operator Karaeama Witika, ensured Bond was not exposed to any hazards.
Despite Witika stating he radioed about Bond entering the work site, the message was not heard by any other employees.
In sentencing Gisborne, Judge Connell accepted his lawyer, Tom Sutcliffe's submission that he was extremely remorseful and had been forgiven by Bond's husband, Neil, in a restorative justice conference.
However, the judge declined to order a discharge without conviction as Gisborne, 29, decided to reverse his truck and trailer unit despite having a 75m blind spot behind him and no spotter to tell him if his path was clear, stating it should have been "common sense" to have that in place.
"in this case you had a responsibility to make sure that there was nothing behind you."
He accepted that Gisborne was just one of many employees involved, and most of the fault should be laid at the feet of the two employers.
NO ANIMOSITY TOWARDS DRIVER AFTER WIFE'S DEATH
Neil Bond said the past two years since the death of his wife, Veronique - affectionately known as "V" - had been surreal.
"It has been really weird because I've never been through something like this before. Having someone that you're so close to, like your other half, just yanked out you feel like half a person for a long time.
"There's been times I took some depression advice because I felt just putting one foot in front of the other, was like, where do I go from here?"
He felt no animosity or anger towards truck driver Gisborne but felt more annoyance towards the companies and their haphazard attitude about health and safety on a work site.
"John is a small piece in it. He's a pretty decent guy. He brought up concerns in the health and safety meetings prior to the crash and I drove through there for three weeks on my way to work and saw them. They were relaxed as anything, they were casual."
His daughter, Angelina, was now 7 and had finally stopped having nightmares about her mum's death.
Bond also praised Judge Connell's attention to detail and eagerness to get a full understanding of what happened.
"I'm happy with the way the judge handled it. He's been quite thorough. He was fair and wanting to understand so I feel good about the job that he has done."
Veronique Bond also had an 18-year-old son who will receive 25 per cent of the $120,000 reparation, of which Transfield will pay 60 per cent, and NZ Traffic 40 per cent.