Inattention caused killer crash: judge


A former Queenstown man was responsible for a crash near the resort that killed a Cromwell woman, a judge has found.

Isaac David Madsen, 19, who now lives in Auckland, held his head in his hands and wept on Friday as Judge Mark Callaghan found him guilty of careless driving causing the death of Jennifer Claire Scott, 76, in July last year.

Callaghan’s decision followed two days of evidence in the Queenstown District Court on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The judge assured Madsen, who did not give evidence during the trial, that he wouldn’t be jailed.

Madsen was convicted and remanded on bail until December 20 for sentencing. A pre-sentence report was ordered and Madsen was referred for restorative justice.

During his summing up, Callaghan said he accepts the police case that distraction or fatigue caused Madsen to cross the centreline into the opposite lane and collide head-on with Scott’s car.

The defendant’s “momentary inattention” was possibly the result of fatigue after a day in which he went snowboarding at Cardrona after hitchhiking up the ski area’s access road.

This action was below the standard of a reasonable and prudent driver on a flat, straight road.

Scott died a few minutes after the crash, while Madsen suffered serious injuries. The collision occurred on State Highway 6 on the eastern approach to the resort between Lakes Hayes and Frankton – a road known locally as the Ladies Mile.

Callaghan says the evidence of one of three eyewitnesses to the crash, Steve Murch, of Arrowtown, was “compelling”.

Murch, who saw the defendant’s car cross the centreline moments before the crash, didn’t see its brake lamps light up or see an abrupt turn.

The defence’s case was that Madsen’s actions could have been the result of trying to avoid Scott after she veered out of her lane and then corrected.

Although aspects of a report by police serious crash unit investigator senior constable Alastair Crosland were criticised by two peer reviewers, the report was correct on “matters of substance” and confirmed the accounts of eye-witnesses.

The defence’s crash expert, Tim Stevenson, had used a crash simulation program to support two alternative scenarios. One of those involved the two drivers “snaking” or inadvertently steering towards each other in an attempt to avoid a collision.

During cross-examination, Stevenson conceded there was no evidence of sudden action by Scott, or of hard braking by either driver.

There was “no evidential foundation” for Stevenson’s alternative scenarios, Callaghan says.

Otago Daily Times