A soldier has been cleared after he crashed an army truck on a public road during a driving lesson and killed Masterton man Warren Carter, 71, last year.
Dayne Jordan Pennington, 24, was hugged by Mr Carter's widow, Joan, today in Palmerston North District Court, where Judge Jim Large discharged him without conviction and did not impose a driving disqualification on a charge of careless driving causing death.
After the court case, Mrs Carter, who was in the car with her husband when it collided with the Unimog at the intersection of Watershed Rd and Ashhurst Rd, near Ashhurst, told the Wairarapa Times-Age she was delighted with the result.
"I'm thrilled with the outcome.
"It's what I hoped for but not what I expected."
In court Mrs Carter read aloud a moving victim impact statement in which she talked about her husband's heavy community involvement and how their daughter, the youngest of six, had been robbed of the opportunity to "have her dad walk her down the aisle".
Another daughter had to live with the trauma of driving through the fateful intersection on a daily basis.
Despite facing financial hardship as a result of losing her "husband and friend of more than 50 years", Mrs Carter said she did not want the young soldier's future tarnished with a conviction.
"However, I'm angry at the army and hold them responsible for the gaping hole the accident has left in all aspects of my life," Mrs Carter said.
The Army had shown a "lack of courtesy and compassion" following the death, which occurred after the it allowed one of its trainees, who had held a full license for only a matter of weeks, get behind the wheel of a heavy truck.
"I want to know that no other family will ever be ignored as we were."
At the time of the crash, Pennington was on a student driving course, run from Linton Army Camp, to gain his Class 2 certification driver's license.
At 10.30am, on August 10, with an instructor sitting beside him, Pennington made a mistake which his lawyer, Steve Winter, said could happen to anyone.
As he approached the intersection he slowed the truck using gear changes and the exhaust brake, the summary of facts read.
"When it came time for the defendant to brake for the corner, he missed the foot brake, and instead pressed down on the clutch causing the Unimog to free roll into the intersection."
The court heard how the truck would have been travelling between 38km/h and 42km/h when it collided with the Carters' vehicle and "shunted" it sideways.
Both vehicles ended up in a ditch off Watershed Rd.
Mr Carter suffered major trauma to his head and chest and died at the scene.
Mrs Carter was taken to hospital with chest and abdominal pain, and was discharged the next day having sustained just a superficial abrasion to her left arm.
Lawyer, Mr Winter said Pennington had written and hand-posted a letter of apology to Mrs Carter.
He also helped the victim with some landscaping and donated $500 to the Foodbank.
A conviction would impede Pennington's ambitions to join the police force and stifle his career in the army.
"It was a genuine error, a mistake," Winter told the judge.
"What sets it aside is the tragic consequence for the Carter family and Mrs Carter herself."
Senior persecutor, Sergeant Stu Oram said police did not oppose Pennington, who had no previous convictions, being discharged without conviction, and not receiving a driving disqualification.
Judge Large said Pennington had pleaded guilty to the charge at the first opportunity and had co-operated with police and Mrs Carter's request to engage in the Restorative Justice process.
The judge said while Mr Carter was on all accounts an incredible person, Mrs Carter clearly was too.
She had "opened up her arms and heart" to Pennington.
The judge read a quote from Mrs Carter that was included in the Restorative Justice report.
"Joan said 'nothing is going to bring Warren back, and there seems no point in ruining your life because of that. Go out and live the best life you can'."
The restorative justice process had ended with "hugs all round", the judge said.
There was no planning, or premeditated features, in Pennington's offending, and a conviction would no doubt "have serious consequences" on his goal of one day being in the police force.
Judge Large said he was satisfied that Pennington's level of culpability was low.
He ended the case by telling Mrs Carter that she was a "brave woman with a huge heart".