The daughter of a couple killed by a careless driver near Levin has told him she forgives him for what he’s done.
“I have no room in my heart for hate or anger,” Sarah Slobbe told 28-year-old Jahmel Rangihaeata at the Levin District Court this afternoon.
“My thoughts go out to you Jahmel, you did not set out that morning to kill our parents.”
“My parents were great people and they would not want this to derail your life.”
Sarah’s parents, Frank and Karen Slobbe, were killed last year when the motorbike they were riding was struck by a car Rangihaeata was driving outside Levin last June.
Rangihaeata initially plead not guilty but changed his plea to guilty and was today sentenced on two charges of careless driving causing death.
He received 250 hours of community work, was disqualified from driving for 12 months and has to pay the emotional harm reparation of $5000.
The Slobbe’s second-eldest Selina, a police officer in Horowhenua, told the court she had to travel past the crash site nearly every day for work.
“Although I didn’t witness the accident I replay it over and over in my head like a horrible nightmare on repeat.”
She said she is constantly anxious about attending fatal vehicle accidents and informing the families of those who have died.
In response, Rangihaeata told the family through his lawyer that he was sorry for the pain he had caused the family.
“I hope you understand how remorseful and sorry I am.”
Another daughter Lisa, who is also a police officer, said the loss was hardest on her son.
“My heart breaks for my son who has gone from seeing them often to not at all,” she said.
“He asks me why we can’t go on a plane or a helicopter and go and visit them in the stars.”
Rangihaeata was driving his work car north at 5.30am on June 9 when he thought he saw a pair of headlights turning across his lane.
He swerved onto the shoulder of the road but overcorrected and caused his car to fishtail into the path of the Slobbe’s Ducati motorbike.
Judge Stephanie Edwards said Rangihaeata had shown significant and genuine remorse, even returning to the scene after he had received medical attention to give members of the Slobbe family his phone number and to apologise.
“All of us who work in the courts know that these are the most difficult cases we are required to deal with,” she said.
“They involve an error we can all, as drivers, relate to”
She said braking as hard as he did may have exacerbated the situation.
“But there’s probably no one in this room that in such a situation their response would not have been to brake and swerve.”
There have been six people killed in car crashes on State Highway 1 between Otaki and Levin in the last three years and at least 17 people injured.
Kapiti Coast District Mayor K Gurunathan has previously described the stretch of highway as a”killing field marked like a battlefield with white crosses”.
Four people died in November last year near Kuku, south of Levin, when their van collided with a truck.
An independent report prepared by infrastructure advisors 41 South in 2018 ranked State Highway 1 as the eighth worst rural state highway section in New Zealand in terms of fatal and serious crashes per year.
“The combination of high traffic volumes and highway deficiencies have resulted in high numbers of fatal and serious crashes with 49 death and serious injury crashes in the period 2013-2017,” they said in their report.
“Unfortunately, this trend is increasing with 16 death and serious injury (crashes) in the first half of 2018 being the highest recorded in the study area over the last 10 years.”
Horowhenua District Mayor Bernie Wanden said the stretch of road is renowned for being unsafe and desperately needs to be improved.
“There’s already been three fatalities in the area this year at least and this is just adding to the terrible statistics.
“It’s a stretch of road between Ōhau and Manakau with a passing lane going south and a turn off to Kuku Beach.
“Around that bend we have a lot of issues.”
Construction of a new four-lane highway between Otaki and Levin was planned to begin in 2025.
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