American tourist charged over bike death
5:00AM Sunday November 04, 2007
By Rebecca Milne
An American tourist driving on the wrong side of the road has been charged after a motorcycle pillion passenger died and her grief-stricken partner was injured.
Julie Anne Smith was riding with Nick Le Bas on Awhitu Rd, near Waiuku, last Saturday night when a car collided with their touring bike. Smith, 36, died at the scene.
The Counties Manukau Serious Crash Unit has confirmed that an American tourist was charged on Friday with dangerous driving causing death and injury.
The woman was on the wrong side of the road but alcohol was not a factor. An application to the courts to confiscate the driver's passport had been lodged. She will appear at Pukekohe court later this month.
Le Bas suffered a fractured arm and punctured foot in the crash. The driver of the car was also injured.
A lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, 39-year-old Le Bas said he had enjoyed afternoon drives with Smith.
"When I met Julz, it was always kind of funny, because she was always conservative," he told the Herald on Sunday with a smile
"She'd drive me insane because she'd always drive down the motorway at 80km/h. I never made her get on a bike, but, like everything in her life, she wanted to be involved.
"Two months ago I sold my old bike and bought a touring bike, so she could travel with me. We were planning some trips before this."
The pair had spent the day at Orua Bay last Saturday, and were heading home on the new bike when tragedy struck. Le Bas was too distraught to talk about the crash. "I'm just taking one day at a time.
"Julie was a very open, clever and caring person. If anyone needed anything she'd always be there for her friends.
"I joked that she was more like a sister to her mother than a daughter because they were so close."
Julie is survived by her parents, David and Gaye, younger brother Phillip and sister-in-law Kim.
The family moved to Whitford, East Auckland when Julie was young so she could have a horse.
The animal lover was a keen sportswoman who loved netball, touch rugby and cricket. She was general manager for Auckland packaging box wholesaler, PrintBox.
"Julz was so clever and kind," Le Bas said. "If she got involved in something she gave 110 per cent. Her family loved her so much. Her mum was so close to her. It's just had a huge effect on her life.
"It doesn't seem fair but nothing could be changed. We weren't doing anything wrong. She should have survived.
"I used to believe in fate but I don't see how this could be fate. It just doesn't seem right."
Le Bas and Julie met through an internet dating website more than a year ago.
The couple bonded over a lunch date and exchanged photographs of their dogs, amazingly both called Jesse. They began living together in February
"We hadn't been together long but I had to move out of my flat," Le Bas said.
"Julz told me, 'Look, there's no point messing around. We're old enough and you never know what's going to happen tomorrow. We should just get on with it'. So we did."
Julie was farewelled last Thursday by more than 100 family and friends, who remembered her for her love of talking and chocolate.
* British and Irish Lions supporter Michael Berry was fined and made to pay reparation totalling $10,000 when he pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving causing death, and one of careless driving causing injury following a crash on State Highway 1, near Karapiro on June 23, 2005. The Welsh tourist fell asleep at the wheel of a rented campervan. He hit and killed Elizabeth Neels, 18, of Cambridge. Berry had arrived in New Zealand on a long-haul flight and was driving to Christchurch on the Lions tour.
* British tourist David McCallum was convicted of careless driving after his campervan collided with a four-wheel-drive on the outskirts of Blenheim in April, killing his 23-year-old friend Adam James Birdsey. McCallum was fined $3000 and disqualified from driving for 12 months.
* In January, English tourist Robert Johnson died when his car hit a tree in central Canterbury.
The crash facts
* 947 motorcycle riders were injured and 35 killed in the year ending December 31 last year.
* 70 pillion passengers were injured and three killed.
* There were 750 head-on crashes last year, causing 87 fatalities.
* Foreign drivers of motor vehicles "probably" contributed to 62 crashes, resulting in the deaths of five foreigners.
* Foreign drivers of a motorcycle "probably" contributed to one crash, and one pushbike crash last year.
(Source: Ministry of Transport's Motor vehicle Crashes in New Zealand annual Statistics for 2006)