Nine horticultural workers injured in a road crash which killed their workmate forgive the young driver of their van and do not want any reparation money from him, a court has heard.
The driver, up-and-coming footballer Nicholas Timothy Yorke, was given 10 convictions in the Napier District Court on Tuesday and disqualified from driving for 12 months.
However, he escaped further penalty after the court heard he had voluntarily given the dead man's widow $5000, and had already performed a form of community work by volunteering to help young soccer players.
Yorke had earlier pleaded guilty to nine charges of carelessly using a motor vehicle causing injury, and one of careless driving causing death.
He had pulled out from the side of the Napier-Taupo highway into the path of a wine tanker travelling at 90km/h on October 19, 2020.
He was aged 19 at the time and was working as a supervisor for Thornhill Horticultural Contracting.
Nicholas Timothy Yorke has been forgiven by the family and occupants of a van he was driving which crashed, injuring many and killing one. Photo NZME
One passenger, Tino Tagiilima, died at the scene. The other 10 people in the van, including Yorke, were all injured to varying degrees and were taken to several hospitals.
Yorke was placed in an induced coma for 22 days before spending weeks recovering.
"From the material I have read, there are many who are surprised you survived the crash. Your injuries were that serious," Judge Gordon Matenga told Yorke at his sentencing hearing.
Defence counsel Nicola Graham applied for Yorke to be discharged without conviction.
She said the former Napier City Rovers footballer was a young man of great potential and "impeccable background" who had been talking to a foreign coach about an international soccer career. This would be hindered by having convictions.
However, prosecution counsel Clayton Walker said police opposed discharging without conviction and any prospects for a footballing career overseas were "speculative".
Judge Matenga said that Yorke was, and still is, employed by Thornhill in a supervisory role. On the day of the crash he was driving a Toyota van; one of three taking Samoan RSE workers to Taupo for some recreation.
The convoy pulled to the side of the road opposite the Tarawera cafe. The first two vans crossed the road into the cafe carpark safely, but as Yorke pulled out he was hit by a Mack truck towing two tanker trailers.
The truck went off the road and rolled down a bank. The driver suffered minor injuries. Yorke's van was pushed forward and suffered "extensive crush damage".
Judge Matenga said that he had letters from Thornhill outlining Yorke's work history, which said he was highly regarded by his employers and had been given supervisory responsibility from a very young age.
He also noted Yorke's "sorrow and remorse" for the accident.
However, the judge said that he was required to hold Yorke accountable and demonstrate to the community that justice was being done.
"Prior to executing the right-hand turn you failed to look in your rear-view mirror or over your right shoulder, or both. As a consequence you were not aware there was a truck coming up behind you.
"The consequences of that choice were catastrophic," the judge said.
The judge agreed that the evidence before him showed that a career in professional football was a possibility but at this stage there were "no firm offers".
He said reparation for emotional harm was discussed at a meeting with the injured victims, who were "extremely understanding and forgiving".
"All of them wish you well. None of the victims wishes to receive any payments by way of reparation."
The judge said that after hearing that Tino Tagiilima's widow and five children were in financial difficulty, Yorke immediately paid her $5000 of his own funds.
"Such a gesture is acknowledged and, in my view, no further reparation is required."
- by Ric Stevens, Open Justice
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