Understanding and anger were just two of a raft of emotions expressed following the admission of guilt for careless use of a motor vehicle causing the deaths of Rotorua Higgins workers Haki Hiha, David Eparaima and Dudley Soul Raroa.
Tauranga man David Michael Cox, 47, appeared in the Whakatāne District Court yesterday and entered guilty pleas to three charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing death.
Kaci James, spokeswoman for the Morgan/Hiha whānau, said family were happy Cox had taken responsibility, "however, there are mixed emotions".
"No matter what the outcome, it will never bring our cousin or uncle home.
"For me personally, it's hard to be angry because this was simply an accident and there was no intent to harm anyone. It's extremely unfortunate lives were lost and, unless you've been in this situation, you won't understand.
"I wish I could blame it on drink or drugged driving, or the vehicle, or something bad. But we can't because that's not what happened," James said.
"I just hope for my whānau this brings some closure."
She said she was sure Cox was feeling just as bad knowing he had taken three lives from three families.
"That in itself will be hard to deal with and now I'm sure his whānau have lost some part of him."
Outside the court yesterday a sister of one of the men killed sobbed.
Family members of the three men have been urged to take part in a restorative justice process with Cox.
The court heard that on February 26 Higgins workers were carrying out routine clearing of culverts adjacent to State Highway 2 on the Matatā straights.
About 1.50pm Cox was driving a Mitsubishi heavy truck travelling east on State Highway 2.
Conditions were dry, the area brightly lit by sunshine and visibility was described as excellent.
The truck veered left on the road shoulder and collided with the rear of a Higgins maintenance truck that was stationary on the shoulder.
The force of the impact shunted the Higgins vehicle forwards to a rotation of 180 degrees before it overturned into the roadside culvert. Cox's truck came to rest on the side of the road.
Three Higgins road workers were struck by vehicles and were fatally injured.
Judge Paul Mabey directed that a restorative justice process involving Cox and the families of the three men killed be explored and a reparation report be prepared. He urged family members to take part.
"Mr Cox has accepted responsibility for his carelessness that caused the death of the three men and his lawyer has raised the potential for what is called restorative justice.
"I would urge you to think very carefully about that. Because you might find that going through the restorative justice process with Mr Cox will be of great value to you as victims of these offences.
"You have lost family members but, by definition, you are also victims and I strongly recommend the process to you."
He also went on to explain to family how, under the law, careless use of a motor vehicle causing death was one of the less serious charges in the calendar.
"And the reason is this. Mr Cox will be sentenced for his culpability and his culpability is his carelessness even though a life has been lost."
Cox was remanded to June 19 when he will be sentenced in the Whakatāne District Court.