The son of one of the elderly women who died in a two-car crash on Houhora Heads Rd, south of Pukenui, on May 15 told the 28-year-old Chilean national who had been driving on the wrong side of the road he had done "a terrible thing".

"I hope you are remorseful, and that you often think of that day and the consequences of your lack of attention," Russell Ogilvy said.

"I hope that every single day when you wake up you will appreciate how precious life is, how quickly it can be taken away, and how lucky you are to be alive and healthy."

Read more: Tributes for two old girls who died after crash in Houhora

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Dante Felipe Basaez Vera, who required an interpreter, was sentenced to four months' home detention, with six months' post-detention conditions, and disqualified from driving for 18 months on each of two convictions of aggravated careless driving causing death when he appeared before Judge Deidre Orchard in the Kaitaia District Court last week.

He was sentenced to one month's home detention on a charge of aggravated careless driving causing injury, and was ordered to pay reparation of $1000 to each of the families of the deceased and the driver of the other car, who survived.

All charges are to be served concurrently.

Vera, who had just begun a working holiday in New Zealand, was the driver of a van which collided head-on with a car shortly after he left the Houhora Heads camping ground. He had been in the wrong lane and both drivers took evasive action in the same direction.

Marion Andrew, the front seat passenger in the car, died instantly. The rear seat passenger, Pauline Ogilvy, died at Whangarei Hospital later that day. The 80-year-old driver sustained serious internal injuries.

Marion Andrew (left) and Pauline Ogilvy (right) were killed in a crash in Pukenui last May.
Marion Andrew (left) and Pauline Ogilvy (right) were killed in a crash in Pukenui last May.

Mr Ogilvy told Vera his family was grateful for his guilty pleas and, while he needed to be punished, a New Zealand prison was not the place for him.

"I know you didn't wake that morning intending to kill two ladies and severely injure another," he said, adding that his mother would have shown compassion.

He also told the court that his mother's death had severely impacted his father, who was not in good health, and had depended a great deal on his wife of 56 years. His health had deteriorated since her death.

Yvonne Chapman, a sister of Marion Andrew, did not want to see Vera jailed either.

"That won't bring her back, and I want you to be able to return to your family," she said.
She asked Judge Orchard to impose a fine, with the money to be spent on signs and road markings around Houhora to remind drivers to keep left.

"It is heart-breaking that her life was taken so cruelly," another sister, Gloria Weston, said.

"It is very hard to accept that I will never see, talk to or laugh with her again. It is very difficult to cope without her."

She asked for a "strong sentence", adding that she wanted to see overseas drivers compelled to undertake a practical test, provide evidence of significant driving experience and knowledge of New Zealand's road rules before being granted an international licence.

Judge Orchard noted Mrs Ogilvy had been thinking of others "to the end", offering comfort to the driver of the car in which she had been travelling, who was afraid of flying, even as they were being placed in the rescue helicopter.

She also had kind words for the defendant, who, after checking that his partner, who had been his passenger, was all right, offered what aid and comfort he could to the occupants of the other car.

"You were clearly devastated by the consequences of the accident," she said.

"You were, and are, wracked with guilt and filled with remorse. In reality, you have already held yourself accountable.

"Because you are a good and decent man, that is a much harsher punishment than anything the court can and will impose upon you. There is no need for a personal deterrence [in sentencing]. The consequences were more than enough in themselves."

Serious crashes, often fatal, involving foreign drivers travelling on the wrong side of the road were not peculiar to New Zealand, however, and the police were not seeking imprisonment. There was no suggestion of excessive speed — Vera's speed had been estimated at 60km/h — and she accepted that the defendant had tried to make amends via the restorative justice system.

Vera's conduct in the immediate aftermath of the crash had been exemplary, she added.

"You did everything you personally could. There is no question that you are a man of excellent character, and I do not expect you will appear before any court in any country again.

"Your remorse is clear, and continues. I hope that in time you will be able to put this behind you and move on, although you will never forget the horror of this day."