Stephan Stoermer’s Killer Sentenced To Short Prison Term – Updated

Our regular readers will know that we often write about New Zealand’s appalling road death toll and of the people who are killed on the roads, especially tourists and other visitors.

A while ago we blogged about the tragic death of Stephan Stoermer, one of many cyclists killed every year in New Zealand. Stephan, like many others, had cycled safely in many different countries without incident but met his death in New Zealand.

Stephan Stoermer had been on a cycling world tour since 2006, he had been safely winding his way through 26 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia since early 2006 before arriving in New Zealand. He died a week before his tour was scheduled to end when he was hit by a logging truck near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty on March 12, 2009

At the sentencing of the man who drove the logging truck that killed Stephan we were given an indication of the factors which came together on that fateful day. Our feeling is that these go a long way toward explaining why New Zealand’s roads are so hazardous, unfortunately the light sentence given to the truck driver is not going to act as enough of a deterrent to other drivers (or trucking companies) to make any difference at all to the road toll, life comes cheap in New Zealand.

The company Mr Robert worked for appears to not to have been prosecuted or censured in any way for his driving  practices whilst in their employ.

Here’s what the Bay of Plenty Times said about the trial

A driver who fell asleep at the wheel of his heavily laden logging truck shortly before killing a German cyclist in a horror crash near Te Puke  has been jailed for two years and three months. Stephan Stoermer, 38, of Frankfurt, was on the last leg of a 26-country cycling journey when he was hit and killed by Troy Roberts’ truck and trailer  near Te Matai Rd on State Highway Two on  March 12 last year.

In May Roberts, 35, appeared in Tauranga District Court and pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless driving causing death, one of falsifying his log book and  several breaches of Land Transport Act regulations, relating to exceeding his restricted driving hours. Police inquiries revealed Roberts had exceeded his restricted driving hours and did not have enough rest breaks in the days leading up to the crash.

On the day of the crash he had driven for seven hours and 15 minutes before stopping, although he was required to have a 30-minute  break after five hours. He had also falsely entered his start time as 4am instead of 2.30am. About 5.45pm on March 12, Roberts had begun to fall asleep as he drove along SH2 on his way to the Port of Tauranga, where he had intended to unload his logs before travelling home to Rotorua. He had already worked 14 hours and 48 minutes.

Near the Te Matai Rd turnoff, Roberts’ vehicle hit Mr Stoermer, who had also been heading to Tauranga, at a speed of 80-85km/h. Mr Stoermer and his bike had been catapulted  into a  ditch. Despite the  efforts of two nurses and a doctor, he had died at the scene.

Roberts admitted his log book was not in order. He claimed he saw the cyclist and  moved to pass him, but heard a bang and knew he’d hit him instead. Roberts said he believed Mr Stoermer may have suddenly veered on to the road in front of him, but a police crash investigation cleared Mr Stoermer of contributing to the crash.

As a commercial truck driver employed by Kahurangi Logging of Murupara, Roberts’ driving hours were restricted by law and the maximum permitted, including two 30-minute rests, was 14 hours a day. Drivers are required to have a minimum of 10 hours’ rest between working days. Between January 12 and the day of the crash, Roberts breached those regulations 13 times.

In Tauranga District Court yesterday, Roberts’ lawyer Rebekah Webby argued for a sentence of home detention. She said Roberts was extremely remorseful and continued to struggle to come to terms with Mr Stoermer’s death. The incident had impacted on him and his family.

Roberts, who lost his job as a result of the incident, had whanau ties to the logging company and had felt under pressure to drive to meet their commitments.

Judge Paul Geoghegan said the summary of facts made tragic reading.  On the day of the crash, Roberts had been a “ticking time bomb” and the fact that he had been driving a fully laden logging truck and trailer made his  offence more serious. While he was prepared to take into account a $400 offer of reparation by Roberts, the judge said he was not going to order reparation, as it was likely to open the wounds for Mr Stoermer’s family rather than close them. He disqualified Roberts  from driving for  two years.”

By way of a comparison the truck driver who killed another German cyclist, Mia Pusch, had his licence suspended for a year and was ordered to pay just $5,000 in reparation.

Another German cyclist died on 6 August 2009 in a hit an run at Leeston, 45 km south west of Christchurch. 34 year old Jens Richardon had been living in NZ for a few years. He must have been quite familiar with the peculiarities of the roads and the local driving habits. His body was eventually discovered by a passing motorist at 7.30pm and police located the offender’s car, a dark blue BMW 3251, 20km away.

The motorist responsible for Jens’ death  was seen slumped over a bar shortly before the crash. Phillip Kirkwood Hamilton, 40, of Southbridge, pleaded guilty on 6 November 2009 to driving under the influence of alcohol causing death and failing to stop for an injury accident. He had drunk around 10 pints of beer at a bar in Rolleston from around 2.30pm that day. He told police he knew he had hit a cyclist but panicked because he had been drinking. The judge took pity on him a gave him a sentence of home detention.

But soft sentences are the norm in crashes involving cyclists.

Drunk driver, 71 year old Alison Downer, bagged a lenient two year sentence for her 4th conviction after she hit and killed Frank van Kampen as he was cycling along State Highway 1 in Te Horo on September 18 2009.  Mr van Kampen’s partner wept through the hearing at Palmerston North District Court and said that she was disgusted by the sentence. Can you believe that Downer’s defence lawyer was alleged to have told the judge that “this was not the worst type of offending because there was only one victim.”

And in the ‘Tamaki Drive Carnage’ a female student lost her licence for 6 months and was ordered to pay $1,000 to each of her victims after she ploughed into a pack of cyclists travelling along Tamaki Drive, Auckland. The cyclists, one of whom suffered long term brain injuries and may never be able to work again, said that the sentence was far too lenient.

North Shore doctor Graham Robinson was struck and killed whilst cycling outside of Helensville. The driver of a white Toyota Hillux sped off after hitting him and police have yet to track him down, despite having an excellent description of the vehicle.

12 July 2010

Two cyclists were abused and assaulted by two women whilst cycling on a training ride on the Taieri on Saturday:

…Their story began when they heard a car approaching about 1pm. Its horn was tooted and someone leaned out of the passenger door and abused them for riding two abreast, he said.

“It came up pretty quickly and tried to collect us with the front door,” Mr Edgar, a University of Otago commerce student, said.

The car passed them and slammed on its brakes, forcing Mr Melrose into gravel on the wrong side of the road.

Mr Logan was caught behind the open car door, when a woman got out and began slapping and punching him. She then threw a bottle at him, he said.

“The woman was going nuts. They dragged my bike into the front passenger seat and took off dragging the bike…”

Police knew the women involved and were going to ‘have a word’ with them.  We’ll be keeping an eye out to see if the women are charged or let off.