ALCOHOL , speed and not wearing seatbelts were major contributors to multiple fatalities in a crash on the Mohaka Hill in January, a coroner has found.
All the deaths were preventable, Hastings coroner Chris Devonport said.
Members of a shearing gang in a car that smashed into a truck at a speed of about 150kmh were described as “wasted” by a witness.
Driver Watson Oliver Tipu, 31, and rear passengers Zyah Giaani Marsh, 13, Kennedy James Weir, 49, and Raimon Taire Keefe, 16, all died. They were not wearing seatbelts.
Evidence showed the car crossed the centreline and hit a 4WD towing a trailer and boat on State Highway 2 north of Raupunga about 7.15pm on January 25.
Giving evidence, Cherie Ultima Robinson said she and the deceased went to an associate’s house after they finished shearing about 11.30am and drank alcohol until about 6pm.
Ms Robinson said she left the house in her own car, while the others followed in another.
“The whole carload of boys were wasted. They had been drinking alcohol since 11am that morning up until the time they left Raupunga,” she said.
“I was driving at 100kmh when Watson overtook me. I would say Watson was travelling at about 140kmh. Watson was going around a corner, a right bend.
“He didn’t quite make the corner because I saw him cross the centre line. As this was happening, a truck with a boat on the back was coming towards us.
“Watson basically went head-on into the front of the truck and this happened on the truck’s lane. Watson’s car bounced off the truck and ended up just off the road in a little bush on the left-hand side of the road.”
Crash investigators concluded the driver had not been applying the brakes at the time of the crash.
It was estimated the car was travelling at about 150kmh immediately before the crash.
Blood test results showed Mr Tipu had 213 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
The legal blood alcohol limit for a New Zealand driver is 80mg.
Mr Devonport said Mr Tipu was seen driving at excessive speed just before the crash, was on the wrong side of the road and the fact he was well in excess of the legal alcohol drink-drive limit was likely a major contributing factor.
“The fact the three rear-seat passengers who were not wearing seatbelts died and the front seat passenger who was wearing a seatbelt survived, speaks for itself.”
Wearing a seatbelt did not prevent Mr Tipu’s death, as he was on the right-hand side of the vehicle that took the impact of the high-speed crash, he said.
The front passenger was not seriously injured and the driver of the other vehicle suffered a severely-smashed right heel, multiple scratches and abrasions, and concussion.