12 Oct 2016

Volunteer firefighter on trial for collision in Wgtn

12:28 am on 12 October 2016

A volunteer firefighter has denied hitting a car when he drove through a red light at an intersection, saying the collision was the other driver's fault.

John Klaphake, a volunteer firefighter who is on trial in the Wellington District Court accused of careless driving causing injury.

Volunteer firefighter John Klaphake is on trial accused of careless driving causing injury. Photo: RNZ / Anne Marie May

John Klaphake, a volunteer firefighter, is on trial in the Wellington District Court accused of careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury.

The driver of the other car, Azeb Kebede, was knocked unconscious in the crash and suffered broken ribs and fluid on her lungs.

Mr Klaphake told the court he could see the light was red as he approached the intersection and he wasn't sure if it was a premonition, but the car appeared in front of him coming from his left and appeared to continue to hurtle through.

He said apart from slamming on his brakes there was little else he could do.

The defendant said he knew he was not allowed to travel through the intersection any faster than 20km/h and he was taking his time because as the light was red, there was no point in rushing.

In reply to questions from the Prosecuting Sergeant, Garth Coffey, Mr Klaphake said neither he nor his passenger saw the car approaching.

He said his lights and siren were on at the time but that did not guarantee the safety of his vehicle and he knew it did not mean other drivers would automatically take evasive action.

Paul Bass, former police detective turned private investigator gave evidence on Mr Klaphake's behalf and said the fire support vehicle and car should have been visible to each other before the crash.

Mr Bass said his investigations at the scene showed the car was travelling across the front of the fire service vehicle when the crash occurred.

Mr Klaphake's passenger had advised him the intersection was clear and Mr Bass said that was similar to what used to happen when he was in the police force.

However, he admitted that despite such a call from the passenger, the driver was still individually responsible for their actions.

Earlier the officer in charge of the case, Constable Vaughan Simpson, told the court the crash ripped off most of the fire truck's bumper, smashed some of its lights and the car was also extensively damaged on its right hand side.

He said the passenger in the fire service vehicle pointed out brake marks to him at the scene and they appeared to show it had braked at the very last minute before the crash.

The defence evidence completed on Tuesday afternoon and Judge David Wilson QC will hear submissions from both sides on Thursday.