Dad welcomes potential jail term
Tourists who cause deaths on New Zealand roads ‘‘need to be made an example of, ‘‘ says the father of five-year-old Ruby Marris, who was killed in a head-on collision near Moeraki on February 21.
Chinese tourist Jing Cao, 32, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and five counts of dangerous driving causing injury when he appeared before Judge Kevin Phillips in the Dunedin District Court last week.
Judge Phillips told Cao, through an interpreter, to prepare for a custodial sentence.
‘‘I thought he would get a fine but we will take whatever the court hands down,’’ Ruby’s father, Tristan, said.
‘‘It won’t bring Ruby back but it will show tourists that when they come to New Zealand and don’t follow our road rules they will be going to prison.’’
Cao’s defence lawyer, Anne Stevens, called for a home detention sentence, but Judge Phillips said a fulltime custodial sentence would send a stronger message.
‘‘A harsh sentence will be good for all New Zealanders – this can’t happen again and it shouldn’t be tolerated. I have faith the judge will make an example of him [Cao],’’ Tristan said.
He was in court to hear the plea, along with his brother-inlaw and Ruby’s grandfather.
The court heard how, on February 21, Cao had veered into the right hand lane on Stage Highway 1 after visiting the Moeraki Boulders near Oamaru. After crossing the centre line, Cao drove over a brow in the road and collided head-on with the Marris family’s vehicle.
Ruby, a student at Ardgowan School, died at the scene.
Tristan, 41, and his wife Kimberley, 40, suffered serious injuries, and Ruby’s older sisters, Georgia, 9, and Sophie, 7, sustained moderate injuries.
Cao’s driving also caused serious injuries to his 60-year-old mother, who was a passenger in his rented four-wheeldrive Ford Ranger.
According to Tristan, Cao has made no effort to contact the family.
‘‘It’s good he has pleaded guilty. . . but words can’t describe how disappointed we are that he hasn’t expressed any remorse.’’
Ruby’s funeral was held at St Patrick’s Basilica in Oamaru on March 5. Those who attended heard how she was deeply loved and cherished by all who knew her.
She was described by relatives as having a ‘‘cheeky smile and a mischievous twinkle in her eyes’’ .
Tristan said that his family had both their ‘‘good days and bad days’’.
‘‘Ruby’s death has left a big hole in everyone’s heart.’’
Cao was remanded on bail and will reappear in the court for sentencing on June 9.
Tristan said he had faith in the justice system and the family would now work on preparing the victim impact statements they will read out in court.
‘‘We will be there for Ruby,’’ he said.