A man who was caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s made a fatal error when he reversed down their driveway.
Ramon Dexter Box, 87 assumed his wife, Maureen, was safely out of the way when he went to park in their garage but tragically she was hit by his vehicle and died later in hospital.
Box pleaded guilty to a charge of careless operation of a vehicle causing death in the Nelson District Court on Monday.
The court heard how about 3pm on January 28, while reversing in his driveway on Waimea Rd in Nelson, he accidentally struck Maureen, 77, causing fatal injuries.
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Lawyer Brett Daniell-Smith said Box had cared for Maureen for about five years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
On the day of the accident, Maureen had been shopping when she became disoriented and was taken to the Emergency Department.
Box picked her up from the hospital, drove home and parked the car at the top of their steep driveway to let her out.
She got out of the vehicle and left the door open. Box got out to shut the passenger door, and could not see Maureen.
He got back into the driver’s seat and started backing into a garage below the house, a manoeuvre he had done many times.
He heard a shout from his wife and went to hit the brake pedal, but hit the accelerator instead.
The car then accelerated sharply down the steep driveway, and did a 180 degree semi-circle colliding with a stone wall.
Maureen was dragged down the driveway and trapped under the vehicle.
Emergency services attended the scene and Maureen was taken to Nelson Hospital with substantial injuries.
Judge Stephen Harrop said Box had made a minor error which had the worst possible consequences.
“The word tragedy is overused I think in our society these days but this is certainly one.
“You made an error of judgement which had fatal consequences for your wife of many years.”
He said it was unfair the charge was called “careless use” as it implied Box didn’t care how he was driving which was not his position at all.
“What it means is your standard of driving on this occasion fell below that of the reasonably prudent driver in the circumstances.”
Judge Harrop said Box was a man of good character who had suffered a greater penalty than he could impose.
He said Box had been driving for about 70 years and had no previous convictions. There was no need for a punitive penalty, other than the minimum penalty of six months disqualification.
He was convicted and discharged.