30 Mar 2009

Former officer found guilty over U-turn chase

3:12 pm on 30 March 2009

A former highway patrol officer has been convicted of dangerous driving during a pursuit in Buller in which two motorcyclists were seriously injured.

Tony Bridgman, 58, who retired last year, was turning to chase a motoryclist clocked at 125km/h when he was hit by two other bikers on the Upper Buller Gorge road in December 2007.

Motorcyclists Brent Russell and Martin Collins suffered serious injuries after colliding with the car about 60km/h.

Bridgman's defence had contended that the injured motorcyclists were speeding, and had they not been they would have been able to stop in time.

The defence said the pair were middle-aged men reliving their youth and speeding on high-performance machines.

The Crown said the officer should never have attempted a U-turn on a narrow and curving piece of road.

A jury at Nelson District Court jury on Monday took less than an hour to convict Bridgman, who will be sentenced in May.

Mr Russell said he is relieved and feels vindicated at the conviction. He said he felt he was on trial after the defence claimed his excessive speed contributed to the collision.

"There's never been a doubt in our minds. There's been a doubt in lots of other people's minds and, of course, the defence attempted to muddy the waters severely with this constant talk about speed."

Mr Russell said he is still recovering from the crash.