US doctor must pay reparations for deadly car crash in NZ, Daily Mail Online
American heart surgeon, 63, who killed two people in a car crash while attempting to do a U-turn on coastal road during holiday in Fresh Zealand must pay $110,000 in reparations
By Associated Press 08:14 BST twenty four Apr 2017, updated 17:47 BST twenty four Apr two thousand seventeen
- Kenneth Wolnak was on vacation with his wifey in Fresh Zealand’s South Island
- He caused the crash while attempting a U-turn on a busy coastal highway
- Kevin Whitburn, Sixty-nine, and Steve Jayes, 41, died at scene from blunt force trauma
- Wolnak was facing three months jail but instead met with the victim’s families and took part in a radio interview as part of ‘restorative justice’
A Wisconsin heart surgeon who was vacationing in Fresh Zealand when he caused a highway accident that killed two people and injured four others was ordered Monday to make reparation payments but avoided jail time.
A district court judge ordered Kenneth Wolnak to pay a total of 165,000 Fresh Zealand dollars to the victims or their families.
Last month, the 63-year-old pleaded guilty to six charges of careless driving after attempting a U-turn on a coastal highway near the town of Nelson. Several vehicles were involved in the ensuing accident.
According to a police summary of facts, Wolnak and his wifey, Elizabeth, arrived in Fresh Zealand in mid-February.
They rented an SUV and traveled extensively around the South Island before the February twenty seven accident.
The duo left to drive toward the Abel Tasman National Park but set off in the wrong direction down the highway, according to police.
After driving for about 1.Two miles, Wolnak pulled over and then attempted a U-turn on the busy highway, colliding with a truck driving the opposite direction.
The driver of the Isuzu truck, 41-year-old Steve Jayes, rounded a slight arch in the road and was faced with Wolnak’s vehicle.
The father-of-two attempted to swerve but crashed head-on into the passenger side of Wolnak’s SUV.
The truck then careened across the center line and into oncoming traffic, police said.
Kevin Whitburn, Sixty nine, who was in his very first year of retirement, and his wifey Janet were heading south in their Toyota Prado, towing a caravan on their way back to their Christchurch home from a vacation in nearby Mapua.
Their car crashed into the Jayes’ truck, causing it to spin, and spill the scaffolding across the road before hitting the caravan.
Both Whitburn and Jayes died at the scene from blunt force trauma.
Janet Whitburn, 65, sustained a cut to her head that required stitches, as well as tenderness to her pecs and whiplash.
Wolnak’s lawyer Tony Bamford said his client suffered a concussion and has no memory of the accident.
Wolnak’s wifey, who was in the front passenger seat broke seven ribs, her pelvis and her jaw in the accident.
According to Bamford, the son of one of the victims who died read a statement in court that said: ‘I hope you are able to proceed saving lives and making a real difference in the world. That’s what Dad would have dreamed, too.’
As part of a legal process in Fresh Zealand known as restorative justice, Wolnak met with some of the victims and their families.
He also agreed at the request of a woman whose spouse died in the accident to participate in an interview with Radio Fresh Zealand.
Wolnak said in the interview that while in Fresh Zealand, he had to concentrate on driving on the left-hand side of the road.
‘It wasn’t the most relaxed excursions on the roads, because I was permanently thinking, ‘What am I going to do wrong?” he said.
Wolnak said he held himself responsible for causing ‘mayhem’ after making the ‘ill-advised’ U-turn.
He said that after the accident, he felt he wished to find a rock to crawl under, and to not peek out too much.
‘As unimaginable as their distress may be, I find it difficult to put into words how sorry I am about that,’ he said.
Wolnak has worked for the past fifteen years at Mercyhealth in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Last month, Mercyhealth Medical Director Dr. Mark Goelzer said in a statement that Wolnak was on leave and ‘has been an excellent physician who is very well-liked by his patients, peers and the community.’
Wolnak had faced a maximum of three months in jail on each of the six charges after pleading guilty at the Nelson District Court.