A courier driver was in his second day on the job, after being given 45 minutes’ notice to start work, when he crashed into an oncoming vehicle, killing a beloved wife, mother and grandmother.
Melville man Michael Way, 68, had been up since 5am delivering parcels around Matamata and Morrinsville and was returning to the PBT Courier depot on August 10, last year.
Striking traffic at Tamahere, he fatefully took the detour onto State Highway 3, where he failed to take a bend and smashed head on with a Toyota Vitz driven by Rukuhia woman Gay Kettle.
The 70-year-old was just 600m from home and was killed instantly.
Kettle had just finished work for the day as a medical courier for Pathlab in Hamilton.
She was driving home where her family had her dinner waiting on the table, with a cloth over it keeping it warm, her daughter Cindy Devcich told the Hamilton District Court today.
Way was meant to be back at the PBT depot at 4pm, but at 5.30pm he was still making his way into Hamilton.
The “unmistakable” sound of the crash was heard by Kettle’s husband, Ronald, at their nearby home.
He told the court he received a phone call from his granddaughter that his wife’s damaged vehicle was seen at the scene.
He ran down the road, only to be stopped at a roadblock by police. He responded that they couldn’t stop him, they responded with “she is already dead”.
Despite pleading with them to let him through so he could hold her hand, he was refused and instead questioned about what she was wearing and her movements that day.
“I said I needed to be with my wife and that it was her wish, that if she was to die, I was to hold her hand.”
The officers said no and he crumpled to his knees, screaming.
Kettle was not only a beloved family member but a friend and workmate to many.
“My life has been absolutely shattered by the actions of this man, Michael Way … if only you could comprehend,” he said looking at Way in the eye.
“She had a lot to give.
“Your rainbows will shine forever, Gay.”
Granddaughter Shay Kettle said the whole family was distraught knowing she had been left dead in her car for five hours as police and firefighters worked to remove her.
Her nana had suffered so many injuries, numerous broken bones, she struggled to list them.
The thought of her death had left her and other family members suffering nightmares.
“She was kind, she was loving and the light of everyone’s life.
“Without her it’s dark, it’s cold, it’s scary.”
Family questioned the legitimacy of Way’s excuse for what happened that day, but his lawyer Roger Laybourn said his remorse was genuine.
While there had been concerned expressed by the family about Way being hired as a courier driver, he accepted full responsibility for what happened.
He had returned to New Zealand in 2019 from teaching overseas only to discover he needed to retrain to do the same here.
The day before the crash he was contacted by temp agency Alignz Recruitment Agency who offered him the contract “with 45 minutes’ notice”.
“So, having not worked for some months, he felt he had no option but to accept.”
He arrived at PBT’s depot to a fully loaded van, a scanner and was “sent off”.
The same thing happened on the day of the crash. Some parcels were perishable goods that were at least a week overdue for delivery.
Laybourn said it was either fatigue or poor judgment which resulted in Way crossing the centre line that day.
“Whatever the reason, it was his fault.”
Community magistrate Ngaire Mascelle said she was “perturbed” to hear the circumstances in court about how Way was hired and was dubious about the company’s health and safety policies.
“I know there are some couriers who have health and safety in place and take them seriously and it’s certainly something the coroner might look into, about what happened, because you weren’t given very much training at all,” Mascelle said.
“Stuck in a van and sent on your way, basically.”
Way was a first offender and of low risk of reoffending and his culpability was found to be at a low to medium level.
On charges of careless driving causing Kettle’s death and also injury to another driver, she sentenced him to 140 hours’ community work and ordered him to pay reparation of $12,000 within seven days.
He was also disqualified from driving for 12 months.
When asked about the sentence outside court, Shay Kettle said nothing was ever going to bring Kettle back.
Ronald Kettle said it was what they were expecting.
“In general it’s probably appropriate, but I do believe he was let down by the company he was employed by … but it was his choice to keep driving instead of going back to the yard.”
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