AN Opotiki family hospitalised after surviving a head-on collision has forgiven the foreign driver who crossed the middle line and crashed into their car.
Members of the Hose family, who were injured in the crash on a Friday night in early May, held a restorative justice meeting with the driver, German national Julian Koeffer, and his partner, late last month.
Koeffer was sentenced in the Whakatane District Court this week after pleading guilty to three charges of careless driving causing injury. He was ordered to do 300 hours’ community work and to pay $1000 reparation. He was also disqualified from driving for 15 months.
The children’s mother, Julena Hose, has spent seven weeks in hospital care for a brain injury.
Mrs Hose’s brother, Jacob Te Kurapa, who is the spokesman for the family, said his sister had been at home for the past two weeks in Opotiki where he had been helping take care of her, and she was recovering well, although would still need further home care.
Mr Te Kurapa said he, Mrs Hose, her husband Simon, and their nine-year-old daughter, Acacia, attended the meeting with 26-year-old Koeffer and his partner.
Mr Te Kurapa said Koeffer had been “very remorseful, sorrowful and in tears” at the meeting.
“The outcome is that we forgave him. We did not want any form of financial reparation. He did offer some, but we recognised that he did not have much money and had to borrow money from his brother.
“We also did not want a custodial sentence.”
The accident happened after Koeffer stopped at the spring on Wainui Road to fill up a water bottle. When he pulled away from the layby to head east he did so on the right-hand side of the road.
At the same time, the Hose family was travelling in a car from Opotiki to Whakatane to church. Three members of the
Hose family, including two children, were seriously injured in the crash.
Koeffer’s lawyer Bruce Hesketh said his client was very fortunate that the Hose family was so forgiving.
“He will be staying in New Zealand to make sure he fulfils his promises to the family.”
Judge Louis Bidois said as a German national, Koeffer was used to driving on the right-hand side of the road and the incident was as a result of an “inadvertent mistake”.
“The family are very grateful and fortunately no one was killed, but this offending has affected the whole family.”
Mr Te Kurapa said the family asked Koeffer what requirements or education there was for foreign tourists wanting to drive in New Zealand.
“He said they had to buy an AA booklet and read about driving conditions on the NZTA website.
“They don’t have to look … it is not compulsory.”
Mr Te Kurapa said they also asked Koeffer what he was thinking when he crossed the middle line.
“He said it was a split-second decision. It was not intentional. For a few seconds he thought he was back in Germany where they drive on the right-hand side of the road.”
Mr Te Kurapa said the meeting helped everyone in the healing process.
The family learned that Koeffer and his partner had been in New Zealand since March and were on a one-year visitor’s visa with the intention of perhaps making this their home.
“Julian doesn’t drive anymore … his partner drives. He gets quite anxious when he gets in the car.”
Mr Te Kurapa said his family wanted to thank everyone for their support and prayers.