Tuesday, March 21, 2017
THE husband of a woman killed by an Argentinian man driving on the wrong side of the road described in an emotional statement read out in court last week the moment he found out his wife had died.
The statement was read out at the sentencing of Mariano Ezquiel Brongno in the Whakatane District Court on Friday by Shane Ashford’s sister, Brenda Looney.
At an earlier appearance, Brongo, 21, had pleaded guilty to one charge of careless driving causing the death of Dale Ashford-Hill.
In the statement, Mr Ashford said that on the night of November 13, his wife text messaged their daughter, Chloe, at 8.11pm to say she was picking up dinner and would be home soon.
Mr Ashford said when his wife failed to arrive by 8.40pm his daughter began to ask where her mother was. He said to give it another 15 minutes and if she hadn’t returned they would go and look for her.
At 9pm, Mr Ashford and his daughter headed out to try and find his wife. Mr Ashford said as they made their way toward Opotiki he spotted red and blue lights near Waiotahe Bridge.
When he reached a police officer diverting traffic, he pulled over and asked what had happened. Mr Ashford said the police officer confirmed a fatal accident had occurred so he told him about his wife being late home.
He was asked to wait in the car and about 10 minutes later he noticed another police car had arrived so he went by himself to meet the officers because he did not want his daughter to hear the conversation.
The officers confirmed to Mr Ashford that they suspected it was Mrs Ashford-Hill who had been killed in the accident and offered to take him and his daughter home.
Mr Ashford recalled sitting in the back of the police car holding his daughter’s hand as they were driven home.
“I am trying not to pass out or vomit while Chloe keeps asking ‘where’s mum?’.”
He said when they arrived home, he called out to his son, Thomas. He gathered both of his children to him before telling them about their mother.
“‘Mum has died, mum has passed away’ is the most agonising, heart wrenching and disgusting thing to say to your children, and watching their pain as they absorbed what I had just told them; our whole world just crashed around us.”
Mr Ashford told Brongno he had robbed him of his soul-mate and his children, their mother.
“Thirty years of loving devotion and sacrifice to one another. There should have been another 30 years ahead of us in the future.
“Now I don’t know what the future will bring Thomas and Chloe … . The future scares me, we have lost half of our stability, dedication and happiness.”
Judge Louis Bidois said Mrs Ashford-Hill’s family had met Brongno in an informal restorative justice meeting after he pleaded to the charges.
“Dale’s family at that time were not really in a position to deal with such a meeting because of grief and coming to terms with what had occurred, but were prepared to defer the meeting and allow you to return home ... no doubt in the hope of you being able to return.”
Judge Bidois said Brongno should be commended for returning to New Zealand for sentence.
“I have no doubt that many a person would not have. The matter of the charge meant that you could not have been extradited back to New Zealand and you could have escaped punishment, albeit you would have had a warrant out for your arrest in our country.”
Judge Bidois convicted Brongno and sentenced him to pay $12,000 reparation, $8000 to be paid immediately, and disqualified him from driving for 12 months.