Two drivers lost control of their cars on State Highway 6 within a short distance of each other early this morning. A 36-year-old Greymouth man suffered minor to moderate leg injuries and was transferred to Nelson Hospital after his north-bound car rolled, crossed the centre line and ended up on its roof about 1am at Glenhope, 45km north east of Murchison.
Constable Jevon McSkimming of Murchison police said it appeared the man had fallen asleep and it was "more than likely'' he would be charged with careless driving.
At about 5.30am and 15km north, a car, believed to be carrying four people, left the road north of the Hope Saddle.
Mr McSkimming said the car failed to take a bend and the driver and occupants ran off before police arrived.
Inquiries were continuing as to why the driver had left the scene, he said.
Tapawera Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Tony Norris said firefighters were called at 6.30am after a passing truck driver raised the alarm.
Mr Norris said it appeared the car had gone off the road backwards. The car was more than 5m down a steep bank and was written off, he said.
said the fire was probably started by a "little darling'', but any evidence was too badly damaged to pursue an investigation......
© 2005 The Nelson Mail
Driver fatigue was the likely cause of this year's tragic crash on the Para Para Road which saw four young people drown after their car plunged 150 metres into the swollen Mangawhero River.
That was the finding of Wanganui coroner Colin Riddet at yesterday's inquest into the deaths of Russell William Turner, 25, Steffan Whatitua Robinson, 17, Nicole Phillipa Emily Davis, 18, and Shannel Ngaire Paranihi. Miss Paranihi's body was never recovered from the river.
The families of the deceased gathered at Wanganui District Court for an emotional hearing on the June 16 crash. Sergeant Susan O'Neil, presenting the evidence, called constable Karen Chambers who described the details of the crash.
She said emergency services were first alerted at 10.35pm, and once at the scene it was clear a north-bound vehicle had gone off the road on a corner, smashed through a rail and fallen 100 to 150m into the flooded Mangawhero River below. Firemen abseiled down the cliff face to the river bank where they found crash debris including a cell phone and handbag.
Despite an extensive search, nothing was recovered that night, but daylight saw the car, a 1984 Mitsubishi Mirage, recovered from the river, containing the bodies of Mr Turner and Mr Robinson.
The official search continued for some days but was eventually called off. It was family members who discovered Miss Davis body on June 30, 5km downstream from the crash site.
Ms Chambers said the two men had been working as part of a railway gang at Kawaru and had finished work at 4:00pm on June 16 after starting at 7.30am, borrowed a car and drove to Wanganui to pick up the women.
Miss Paranihi was at her mother's house before she left with the others. "She said, 'See you on Friday, Mum', and left'.". Ms Chambers said Senior Constable Peter Bridge of Central District's Serious Crash Unit presented police evidence from the inspection and analysis of the crash site and vehicle. He said three factors were considered including environment, the vehicle and the driver.
"Environment wasn't a factor although the road surface was wet at the time, nor was there any mechanical failure that could have caused the vehicle to drift across the road," Mr Bridge said.
"Whether the driver was distracted or fell asleep is subject to speculation. It's suggested driver fatigue was a factor and the driver would only have had to fall asleep for less than two seconds and it would have been enough for this crash to occur." He said police had not been able to establish who was at the wheel at the time of the tragedy.
Good Health Wanganui pathologists doctors Emmanuel Lucio and Ian Sutherland also gave evidence of their post-mortem examinations of the three recovered bodies. The pair said all three died by drowning after the smash. Mr Sutherland said he believed Mr Robinson had been knocked unconscious in the crash and had drowned without coming to. Alcohol was detected in the blood of all three dead, but none were over the legal limit to be driving. Blood tests also revealed the two men had consumed cannabis in the hours before they died. Mr Riddet then explained that while Miss Paranihi's body had not been found, he had the power as a coroner to declare her dead given reasonable evidence. He said he was convinced she had been in the car and had died as a result of the crash.
"I realise this must be very distressing for those concerned and I do express my sympathy," he said to the families of the victims. "I wish to express my sympathy to all the relatives of these four young people whose lives were taken in this tragic circumstances."
While the men had consumed alcohol and cannabis in the hours before their deaths, Mr Riddet found tiredness was the more probable cause of the crash.
"It is likely one of the two men were driving, but even if one of the women were, there was an element of tiredness."
"They had worked from 7.30am to 4:00pm on the 16th of June and then travelled to Wanganui to uplift the girls."He said they were intent on getting back to Kawaru because they had to start work at 7.30am the next day.
"I have to say that was not a very good thing to do..I suspected tiredness is a greater cause of accidents than is recognised.
"I find each of the deceased died at around 10.30pm in the 16th of June in the Mangawhero River as a result of drowning when they accidentally ran off the road and fell into the river," Mr Riddet concluded......
© 2004 Wanganui Chronicle
Four killed in "blink of an eye" in a head-on crash on State Highway 10, 1.5km north of Waipapa on September 12. Three other children were seriously injured in the crash.
Type 'four killed in the blink of an eye', into the search box in the top right hand corner of their screen......
Well Mr R......, again to your credit you have come along to Court, and you have pleaded guilty to careless driving. I guess that falling asleep is something that we see all too often, and I am happy to see or we are happy to see that truck drivers, I guess, collectively are tending now to do something about it because some of these trucks can cause some quite frightening accidents.
You are convicted on the charge of careless driving. You are fined in the sum of $400, and ordered to pay Court costs of $130.00. As to the application for reparation, there are several figures listed in the victim impact statement. They are simply figures produced by the victim. There is nothing in the way of invoices or anything like that to back up any of that, so the Court is not prepared to order reparation at this time......
SEVEN cars were shunted into a mangled pile after a Napier carpetlayer, who had worked a 12-hour stint, allegedly fell asleep at the wheel of his van and ploughed into them.
The driver of the van, his son and a third worker were heading back to Napier after working on a job in Wainuimomata when their van, travelling north of Ngaumatawa by-pass road, careered across the road and catapulted over a verge yesterday. It struck one vehicle at the Solway railway station, southwest of Masterton, causing a domino effect.
Police believe the van's driver fell asleep at the wheel. It was travelling in a 100km/hr zone and there was no evidence of any attempt to brake.
Sergeant Mike McRandle said it was a miracle that no one was badly injured. A passenger in the van suffered minor injuries. "It was eight o'clock in the morning and all the commuter trains had gone. Any earlier, and it would have been a potential disaster zone."
Patricia and Chris McDonald's four-wheel drive was one vehicle destroyed.
"Chris gets the first commuter train, about 5.50am, and he sits in the car waiting till the train approaches. It is hard not to think if this had happened an hour or two earlier, he would have been dead. "
Mrs McDonald first heard of the crash when she got a call from her husband, who works in Wellington, saying he had an e-mail mentioning a crash. He asked his wife to go to the station to check. "When I got there, the car was gone and when I got to the wreckers. I got a shock," she said.
Inquiries into the accident are continuing. No decision had been made on possible charges......
©2004 Fairfax New Zealand
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