Eastern Bay of Plenty Police have charged a 42 year old Eastern Bay of Plenty man with Dangerous Driving Causing Injury to 16 students following the school bus crash at Ruatoki last September.
The man charged was the driver of the logging truck that was involved in the crash. He will appear in the Whakatäne District Court on 23 February 2012. The charge carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000. Other penalties may include loss of licence.
The charges come after an extensive serious crash investigation and a Police review of that investigation.
The Road Policing Manager Bay of Plenty Police, Inspector Kevin Taylor, says the serious crash staff have completed a thorough investigation into this crash that occurred on September 5.
"This was a very serious crash – one of the worst and most upsetting, in terms of the number of young victims, that had ever been attended by many of our Police staff and other emergency services.
"In order to do justice to the victims and their whänau, their schools, the local community and transport users around New Zealand, it was absolutely critical that the investigation was thorough and robust and this process simply takes time to be done properly."
Inspector Taylor says the charges include injuries to students whose injuries were of a nature sufficient to warrant charging the driver under the Land Transport Act 1998.
"We know there were a large number of students injured in this crash, some with minor injuries through to critical. Many were seen and treated at Whakatäne Hospital before being admitted and/or discharged.
Inspector Taylor says the investigation was completed late last year, and has subsequently been reviewed at a District level.
"This review, by the District Road Policing Manager is standard practice in the Bay of Plenty District for a crash as serious as this. It also helps ensure the process is robust and thorough, and that the right decisions have been made about where accountability lies for the harm that has been caused."
Inspector Taylor says the extensive investigation and crash analysis, has determined that the crash was caused by the driver of the logging truck, when he failed to stop short or manoeuvre around the school bus as that bus was pulling over to let children off.
He says because the case is now before the court, Police are unable to provide any further details about the investigation. He says the serious crash staff will continue to work on the prosecution aspects of the file.
"Our objective is two fold, initially to ensure that the right person is held accountable for the harm that has been caused to these children and whänau, also to ensure this type of incident is not repeated, that will continue to be our focus over the coming months."
Inspector Taylor says the incident continues to be a clear reminder for all road users about the road rules when passing school buses.
The speed limit when passing a stationary school bus is 20kph. Drivers must be aware of the presence of young children when ever a school bus is operating and take extra care when driving passed school buses.