A court hearing is scheduled this month in New Zealand for a retired Dana Point physician charged with driving dangerously in the wrong direction when his car struck and seriously injured another motorist on Jan. 27, sparking condemnation among some in the island nation.
Sara Duan, 33, who suffered multiple spine fractures in the Queenstown crash , said Dr. Raman Sidhar, 73, who was driving a rented 2021 Toyota Camry, did not offer her medical aid and claimed he abruptly left New Zealand seven hours after the collision.
Duan, a hotel chef who was on her way to work at the time of the collision, told the Southern California News Group: “As a doctor, he is very aware of my situation at the time of the crash when I was trapped in the car and couldn’t get out, meanwhile suffering from extreme body pain, with blood coming out of my mouth.
“But he chose not to offer anything of help. If it weren’t for the driver behind me who kindly helped me out of the smoking car, I honestly didn’t know what would happen to me.”
However, a spokesperson for Sidhar, who asked not to be identified because legal proceedings involving the doctor are ongoing, disputed portions of Duan’s account on Tuesday, March 7.
Sidhar, who was previously employed as a family medicine physician with the Veterans Affairs Loma Linda Healthcare System, asked Duan if she was OK, and provided police with a statement and contact information before obtaining permission to leave the crash scene, according to the spokesperson.
“He feels sorry this happened,” the spokesperson said. “No one wants to be involved in an accident.”
Sidhar and his wife, who had been on a monthlong trip to Australia and New Zealand, didn’t quickly slip out of the country, the spokesperson said. Following the collision, the couple flew to Auckland International Airport, where they were stranded for two days after the area was besieged with major flooding.
Sidhar’s ordeal, first reported by the online news agency Crux , began around 5 a.m. after he and his wife left the Oaks Shore Hotel in Queenstown for some sightseeing.
Sidhar, who was not intoxicated, said he wasn’t used to driving on New Zealand roads, became confused, and ended up in the wrong lane, resulting in the collision, according to a police report.
The impact of the crash pushed the back of Duan’s car up against a footpath and sent Sidhar’s vehicle into a median barrier. Duan and Sidhar were wearing seat belts and airbags inside their vehicles deployed, the police report states.
Police have charged Sidhar with dangerous driving causing injury, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison or a fine of up to $20,000.
The Medical Board of California is aware of the crash involving Sidhar and is looking into the matter, but spokesperson Carlos Villatoro said the agency cannot comment further.
“In general terms, when a physician is charged or convicted of a crime, the board must conduct its own investigation into the incident to determine if the crime is substantially related to the practice of medicine,” Villatoro said. “Each arrest or conviction is investigated individually, and the board makes its disciplinary decisions based on the facts of the given case.”
Meanwhile, Duan said Sidhar hasn’t personally apologized or offered to pay her medical bills or cover her mounting expenses.
“I’ve suffered not just physically but mentally and financially,” she said. “And I don’t know if can go back to work again.”
The crash has garnered national headlines in New Zealand, where collisions involving visitors often receive widespread attention.
Moreover, some Queenstown residents have taken to social media to criticize Sidhar.
“No one can undo the accident but, allowing his victim to suffer from his mistake is unconscionable,” one person said in a Facebook post
Sidhar has hired a New Zealand attorney to represent him. His hearing in Queenstown District Court is scheduled for March 13. It was unclear whether Sidhar could appear via video or if the attorney can stand in for him during the proceeding.