6 Apr 2018

American student pleads not guilty to fatal Northland crash

1:18 pm on 6 April 2018

An American student is denying responsibility for a fatal head-on crash near Kerikeri this week.

Reiss Berger, 21, appeared in the Kaikohe District Court this morning and pleaded not guilty to two counts of careless driving causing death and three of causing injury.

Two men Yvarn Tepania and James Hamiora, both from Northland, were killed on Monday night when the hire car driven by Mr Berger collided with their Subaru on State Highway 10 north of Puketona junction.

Reiss Berger appeared in the Kaikohe District Court.

Reiss Berger appeared in the Kaikohe District Court. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Mr Berger's lawyer, Mike Dodds said his client was at university in Melbourne and had come to Auckland to spend Easter with his girlfriend.

They had hired a car at Auckland Airport and were heading north to Matauri Bay when the crash happened.

Mr Dodds said Mr Berger denied he had driven carelessly.

He said he had been in the correct lane coming out of an s bend when the Subaru drifted towards him and he had veered right to avoid it.

Mr Berger has been bailed to return to New Zealand in May for a case review hearing.

Police opposed bail for the American but Mr Dodds said Mr Berger's father was an attorney who had flown from the United States for the hearing and would ensure his son would re-appear in court.

Judge McDonald said Mr Berger could be extradited if he failed to return and bailed him for a hearing in the Kaikohe Court on May 18.