Motorcyclist Simon Greenwood has recalled the traumatic moment a police officer told him his partner at the time, Nicola (Nikki) Gapes, had died in a crash where his motorbike collided with a car.
Greenwood had attempted to overtake a line of traffic on Kaipara Coast Highway, Gapes in pillion, before “slamming” into a turning car and being flung further down the road, a courtroom has heard at his trial for careless driving causing death.
“We hit and that was it, black,” said Greenwood.
He woke up on the road, unable to breathe and wondering where Gapes was. He was treated in an ambulance and spoke to an officer.
“The main thing I remember was asking him how Nikki was and he told me she had died and that’s all I really remember,” he said while giving evidence today.
Greenwood claimed he had the “right of way” to overtake the line of cars in the opposite lane on January 29, 2018 – Auckland Anniversary Day.
“I had the right of way because it’s the duty of care of other road users to see me, I was there to be seen,” he said.
“People just can’t pull out in front of you as you’re overtaking because if that happened there would be a lot of collisions on the road.”
The northbound lane was clear and there were no incoming cars, Greenwood said.
“I noticed that traffic was moving slowly. The road markings had changed to allow overtaking. I saw that there no cars coming towards me and so … it was clear to pass,” he said in his judge-alone trial at Auckland District Court.
“I indicated. I looked at my wing mirrors and I did my usual head check as the last thing to make sure no traffic was coming from behind … and proceeded to do my overtaking manoeuvre.”
He claimed his reaction time before braking was “less than a second”.
“I slammed on everything I could and wasn’t able to stop in time and rode into the back of the car.
“I used my front and rear brakes to stop the bike as hard as I could.”
He was hospitalised for days with broken ribs, bruising, concussion and a broken spleen.
A senior constable who penned the crash analysis has agreed the driver of the turning car did not check for traffic behind him before pulling off the highway.
“It is a fundamental obligation, I suggest, of the person changing direction … to make sure it is safe to do so,” Greenwood’s lawyer David Jones QC asked Karl Bevin under cross examination today.
“He had an obligation to check and make sure the way behind him was clear … didn’t he?”
“Yes,” replied Bevin.
“Clearly he can’t have done that,” said Jones QC.
“Clearly,” someone said loudly in the public gallery, to which Judge Michael Crosbie told them it was “completely disrespectful to interject”.
“He clearly didn’t do it, did he?” Jones QC persisted.
“No,” said Bevin.
The driver of the car, Rena Kipa, has not been charged.
Kipa did not mention checking behind him before turning in his police statement, but while giving evidence yesterday claimed he looked around four times.
The actions of all those involved in the crash happened “in a very small space of time”, Bevin said.
“We’re not talking across a minute or half a minute, we’re talking seconds.
“I’m not entirely sure Mr Kipa even had enough time to see the motorbikes.”
Bevin agreed the two motorcyclists – who were not known to each other – were carrying out a “perfectly legal” manoeuvre when overtaking the holiday traffic due to the road markings.
Greenwood, 52 at the time, and Gapes, 43, were allegedly “ducking in and out” of traffic on his Kawasaki ZX on their way home to Auckland from a romantic long weekend in Russell.
A second motorcyclist travelling separately to the couple, Jeremy Winks, was hospitalised.
The trial is set to finish by the end of today.
The public gallery is packed with friends and family of both Gapes and Greenwood.
Judge Crosbie has indicated he will reserve his decision.
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