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Jail for bus driver

Mere Naleba
Friday, May 17, 2013

KAMINIELI Tuimavana is willing to traditionally apologise to the families of those who lost their lives in a bus fire at Malaqereqere in August 2008.

The High Court in Suva also heard from Tuimavana's mitigation that he was only waiting for the conclusion of his case to do that.

This was revealed as judge Justice Paul Madigan dished out a three-year sentence against the man who drove the bus on that fateful day, resulting in the death of 12 people.

The court heard he would present a traditional apology called the matanigasau to the village of Natokalau in Ovalau where majority of his passengers hailed from.

Tuimavana was charged and convicted of 12 counts of manslaughter for driving the Raiwaqa bus registration RBL001 that was transporting an extended family from Suva to Nadi to attend a funeral.

"He cannot possibly be sentenced to 12 distinct separate appropriate terms of imprisonment because that would grossly offend the totality principle of sentencing," Justice Madigan said

"Yet his failing of duty did lead to the deaths of 12 people, mostly women and children, and an appropriate sentence must indeed reflect that fact."

Justice Madigan ruled that Tuimavana be sentenced on one count of manslaughter by omission, and that the court would consider that the highly aggravating factor being breach of duty.

Tuimavana's lawyer Gavin O'Driscoll earlier in the trial said his client was driving the bus under severe handicap in that he had been driving all day since 6am on August 28; the bus was badly repaired and not road worthy; he was placed under undue pressure from his employer to complete the trip; and passengers had been waiting for more than five hours.

"While it is accepted that this accused was labouring under some quite severe handicaps, his general attitude and clear impenetrable imperiousness to the entreaties of some of the passengers was quite extraordinary, if not arrogant in the words of the accident report," Justice Madigan said.

"Although at trial he denied that he heard any bell pulling, or shouts of passengers or villagers in passing and although he denied the gradual generation of warning signs from the bus such as odd engine noises, difficulty in changing gear, heat coming from the engine, etcetera, the testimony of at least three or four passengers gave a picture of panic and alarm amongst the passengers who were yelling at him to stop the bus."

Tuimavana is eligible for parole after serving a minimum of two years.

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