The hearing of three traffic-related charges against the suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O), Mauga Precious Chang, started in the District Court yesterday.
Mauga has pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent driving causing injury, dangerous driving and failing to stop to ascertain.
Queens Counsel from New Zealand, Aaron Perkins and former Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai are representing Mauga.
New Zealand lawyer, Satiu Simativa Perese, is the prosecutor.
Judge Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma is presiding.
The charges are in relation to a traffic incident on 4 May 2016 involving a Hyundai Tucson driven by the defendant and a bus. The defendant was driving from the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel heading towards the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi building. Accompanying Mauga was her colleague, Loretta Teueli, who was on the passenger’s side.
Heading the opposite direction was a wooden bus driven by Paulo Filipo, carrying students from Maluafou.
According to the police summary, as the vehicle driven by Mauga approached T.A.T.T.E’s entrance, she suddenly turned to cross diagonally across the two lanes to enter T.A.T.T.E. That’s when the bus crashed into her vehicle.
“The bus (driver) applied the brakes but he was unable to avoid the collision,” he said. The bus then pushed the Hyundai the direction of the fence and a taxi got damaged. Satiu added that immediately following the crash; Mauga backed up and left the scene. She did not check if anyone was injured. She went to the Tupua Tamasese Meole hospital where her colleague, Ms. Teueli, was examined by Dr. Agape Amituanai.
The first witness to take the stand yesterday was Constable Avalua Fetu, who was the forensic officer responsible for the sketch of where the incident occurred.
Bus driver Paulo Filipo from Vaivase-uta said the incident happened quite quickly.
“I was driving when suddenly a car drove infront of me at the Tupua Tamasese building (T.A.T.T.E),” he recalled.
“The lights were green and the bus was on the inside lane then suddenly I saw a vehicle coming in turned and bus crashed into it.
“After that, the vehicle reversed and took off. Inside I saw a skinny girl driving and a fat girl on the passenger’s side.” In cross-examination, Perkins asked about the speed of the bus. In response, Mr. Fetu said the speedometer of the bus was not working.
How did would he know then how fast the bus was travelling?
Mr. Filipo assured that he knows from “how the bus is travelling.”
At that point, Mr. Filipo was asked to mark the point of collision with Mauga’s vehicle on exhibit B.
Trial of suspended N.P.O Director begins
He explained that the speed limit on the outskirts of the island is 25miles and in town is 15 miles.
“I was driving on the fourth gear and changed it to third gear when I got to the lights,” Mr. Filipo explained.
He denied traveling over the speed limit.
“I changed the gear to third when the bus stalled at the lights before I hit the tar seal joint pump,” insisted Mr. Filipo. “The speed was 10 to 15mph.”
But Perkins put it to the bus driver that he was driving a lot faster.
Mr. Filipo insisted he was going at 15mph.
Asked to describe the condition of the bus, Mr. Filipo said he had to pump the brakes in order to stop the bus. Perkins then questioned Mr. Filipo if he agrees that the condition of the bus on that day suggests that it shouldn’t be on the road.
He replied that he has been driving the bus for a while and that was the situation he had to pump the brakes.
“So you have developed a driving style to deal with the condition of the bus,” asked Perkins.
Mr. Filipo said yes. In his evidence, Mr. Filipo also pointed out that Mauga did not indicate when she turned.
Moving on, Perkins asked Mr. Filipo that in his first statement to police right after the accident, he claimed that the Tucson hit the taxi.
Mr. Filipo said no.
At this point, Aumua took over and asked questions pointing to the statement written in Samoan. When he was shown the statement, Mr. Filipo confirmed that it was his signature underneath it.
Again, the bus driver was asked by Aumua about part of the statement that he mentioned that the Tucson hit the taxi.
His response was that the way the statement was prepared was incorrect but it’s not the Tucson that hit the taxi.
The taxi driver was then asked if it was the outside lane closer to T.A.T.T.E that the bus hit the Tucson. In response, Mr. Filipo said it was the inside lane not the outside lane.
Perkins then pulled out the exhibit B where Mr. Filipo had marked the point of collision in the outside lane.
But Mr. Filipo repeated it was the inside lane not the outside one.
He also said that Mauga was speeding when she turned.
Perkins then put it to Mr. Filipo that he was a making it up.
He denied this and maintained he was telling the truth.
The third defendant was Molipo Asi Kereti.
The 20-year-old male was walking from To’oa Salamasina building towards T.A.T.T.E where his brother works when the incident happened.
He told the Court that when he reached the entrance he turned around to wave at his friend when he saw Mauga’s car turning in and did not see her indicator on.
Mr. Kereti said that was how the accident happened. He added after that the Tucson headed straight to the hospital.
The trial continues today.