Driver in bus crash that killed five tourists to be deported

The man convicted of careless driving that resulted in a crash killing five of his passengers will be deported in January.

Junwei Zhang was the driver of a tour bus carrying 27 passengers when it lost control near Rotorua in 2019.

Five passengers were thrown from the rear window of the bus and died when the vehicle rolled on their bodies. Eight others suffered minor to severe injuries.

One of those killed in the crash was a five-year-old girl.

Zhang pleaded guilty to five charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing death and eight charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury in September last year.

He was sentenced to four and a half months’ home detention, disqualified from driving for 18 months and ordered to pay reparation of $13,000.

Now Zhang faces deportation to China.

In an October decision recently released by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, Zhang was given three months to get his affairs in order to leave New Zealand.

The tribunal said Zhang and his wife have held a series of visitor, student, work and interim visas since they arrived in the country. Zhang first arrived in October 2015.

Zhang’s last interim visa expired in June. Since then, the tribunal said, he has been eligible for deportation.

In making its decision the tribunal considered documents supplied by Zhang and his family.

Among these was a written statement from Zhang’s wife which said their son wished to stay in New Zealand with his family and continue going to school.

Zhang’s wife, a restaurant manager, said in her statement their once “happy and peaceful family was broken down completely” on the day of the crash.

“To be honest, I didn’t believe it or even accept it. But the truth is so cruel… We have gone through the saddest and difficult stage together.”

Another document provided to the tribunal in support of Zhang’s appeal to stay in the country was a letter from his most recent employer.

The letter stated Zhang performed well in his job and would be hired immediately as a motor mechanic if granted a work visa.

The tribunal ruled there were no “exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature” to prevent Zhang’s deportation.

“[Zhang] and his wife have a strong nexus to China, where they lived for 33 years and 29 years respectively.

“He and his wife are familiar with the way of life and culture in China where they were raised, educated, married, held employment and experienced the birth of their child.”

The tribunal said both Zhang and his wife’s parents live in China and the family would be supported through the change of returning to the country.

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The tribunal acknowledged Covid-19 could mean the family would be separated for “a significant time” once Zhang is deported.

Father and son, the tribunal said, could maintain contact online via video calls.

Zhang’s family have the option of joining him in 2023 when their son’s student visa expires.

The three-month period between the date of the tribunal’s decision and Zhang’s deportation allowed for the uncertainty of arranging international travel during the pandemic.

The wait also gives time for Zhang to become fully vaccinated before his return to China.

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