A mother who lost her two children after a truck hit the family car on the Desert Road told a court yesterday that her shock and anger from the tragedy would stay with her for the rest of her life.
In a victim impact statement, Dr Mohadeseh Sharifi said there were no words to describe the emotional harm of what happened.
Choking back tears, Sharifi described Arteen, her 4-year-old son who died in the crash, as a kind and loving boy who would often show random acts of affection, and who adored his younger brother Radeen.
She wished to share more of her baby but she and husband Siamak Mosaferi had only welcomed him into the world two months earlier. Radeen died two days after the crash in Starship hospital.
Sharifi addressed the Taupō District Court where John Baptiste Barber, of Hawera in South Taranaki, was due to go on trial defending eight charges, including two of careless driving causing the deaths of Radeen and Arteen Mosaferi, as well as careless driving causing injury to their parents, on March 30 last year.
However, the 71-year-old entered guilty pleas through his lawyer Turitea Bolstad just prior to the start of the hearing.
He also admitted three additional charges of failing to have adequate rest times in a 10-hour work period on March 27, 29 and 30, as well as one charge of producing a logbook with false material at Tūrangi on March 30.
Sharifi, now heavily pregnant, was left suffering critical injuries, while her partner suffered serious injuries. The pair have since recovered.
The family were heading south to Wellington along the Desert Road when they had come to a stop in a line of traffic. Despite having about 500m of visibility ahead of him, Barber crashed his truck and trailer unit into the rear of the family's car, killing one of the children instantly.
He declined to comment when spoken to by police at the scene. The court heard fatigue was a key factor in the crash with Barber failing to have the minimum 10-hour breaks in the three days prior to the crash.
On the day of the crash he had also worked continuously for seven hours and 10 minutes. The maximum a driver is allowed to perform at one time is five hours, Senior Sergeant Martin McGahey told the court.
Barber was travelling south and failed to see the vehicles had come to a stop ahead of him.
He slammed into the back of the family's Toyota which was shunted forward into the trailer of a truck also belonging to trucking firm Dynes.
The second truck was also shunted forward in the crash.
Barber stood emotionless as Sharifi read her victim impact statement.
She had since lost her job due to the moderate brain injury she had suffered, a frustrating consequence of the crash. She found it hard to cook and clean at home let alone carry out her top-level job at AgResearch which she had since given up.
She was in hospital for 23 days due to the many injuries, while her husband was in hospital for two days.
She did not remember anything from the day of the crash until about 10 days later but told the court how her husband was in denial and shock about what happened.
She regularly had flashbacks, although due to her memory loss she was unsure if they were from the actual crash or not.
She now felt guilty for falling asleep just before the crash and wished she had been cuddling her boys or breastfeeding her youngest in the hope that it may have saved them.
"Every night is just drifting off to various nightmares of accidents ... and waking up in the morning feeling more tired [and] starting a day with no aim or purpose."
She was waking up to this so-called new life with shock, disbelief, anger, regret and negative energy she had not been able to let go of and which she felt would now stick with her for the rest of her life.
While she'd suffered memory loss, she described how her husband remembered "every second and is living through it every day, over and over again".
He now carried a sense of anger and recalled the day of the crash and how Barber's truck had been "tailgating" their vehicle and how he had been waiting for the chance to get away from his truck.
Sharifi spoke of how much of a coincidence it was that the dashcam in Barber's truck stopped working minutes prior to the crash so there was no evidence to offer the court.
She also expressed her anger at Barber sticking by his not guilty pleas up until yesterday's morning's trial.
"You have taken away two young innocent lives and as a result ... you have killed their parents on that day."
Barber was convicted on all charges and remanded on bail for sentencing in April.
He declined to comment when approached by the Herald outside court.
Taupō road policing manager Senior Sergeant Fane Troy said fatigue was a "big factor in a lot of crashes, especially through the Central North Island".
Meanwhile, Barber's colleague, who was driving the truck and trailer unit ahead of the couple, has also been convicted of careless driving after he had to swerve on to the wrong side of the road to avoid the line-up of waiting traffic.