'Van Driver Plunges into Parked Cars'

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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'Falling asleep cause of man's death'

A Timaru man died after falling asleep at the wheel of his car on State Highway 1, just north of the Opihi Bridge on February 14, Timaru coroner Edgar Bradley ruled yesterday.

Ralph William Hill, 44, self employed, was driving south along State Highway 1 when his vehicle crossed the cenre line and struck the front of a north-bound truck and trailer unit.
Senior constable Graeme Walker of the Temuka police said drivers who had followed Mr Hill had noticed he was driving erratically, frequently crossing the centre line, and had been stretching his arms and opening the driver's window.
There was no evidence of alcohol or drugs in Mr Hill's blood or urine. An inspection of his car showed that the left front tyre was not up to WOF standard and the rear right-hand tyre was under-inflated.
Mr Bradley ruled that Mr Hill had died from massive trauma, compression of the spinal cord, multiple fractures, and a large haemothorax on the right side, after his car veered across the centre line in the path of an oncoming truck.
"Although the low pressure on the right rear tyre may have been a contributing factor, it's clear that the main cause was that Mr Hill had lost control of his car by falling asleep.".....

©2004 Fairfax New Zealand

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'Asleep at the wheel'

CHEVIOT - Sleep deprived drivers are coming to grief on the State Highway 1 near Cheviot. A 22 year-old man had a lucky escape near town as he was driving south to Christchurch after crossing from Wellington on a ferry. Constable Al Riley said the man lost control at a corner and nose dived into a ditch and flipped. He walked away unscathed.

A German tourist, who fell asleep at the wheel north of Cheviot and crashed, had earlier stepped off a plane in Christchurch......

The Press and Fairfax New Zealand 2004, All rights reserved

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'Driver who falls asleep fined $500'

Falling asleep at the wheel had dire consequences for a man who had spent a night awake with toothache.

The Christchurch District Court was told that Ross Millin, 38, who admitted a charge of carelessly using a car, had spent the night in pain with severe toothache and had gone in search of a dentist early the next morning.
He was treated, and on his way back to Darfield when he fell asleep at the wheel, colliding with a vehicle towing a horsefloat. Both cars were written off as well as the horsefloat.
The other driver was uninjured, but Millin suffered cuts and severe damage to a finger which might yet have to be amputated. Reparation of $12,500 had already been paid.
The court was told Millin had realised that he was sleepy and had stopped for a break, then
thought that he was alert enough to continue.
Judge Phil Moran said no-one ever intended to fall asleep at the wheel but it happened frequently .In this case it had "pretty horrendous" consequences. The judge gave Millin credit for taking care of reparation and fined him $500......

The Press and Fairfax New Zealand 2004, All rights reserved

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'Fatigue factor'

Fatigue is believed to be a factor in a crash south of the Horowhenua town of Ohau in which a woman died, police said today. Dallas Pauline Cook, 49, of Westport, was killed instantly when her car lost control on a bend on State Highway One just south of Ohau at 1.30pm yesterday, and slammed into a tree. Constable Alistair Finn, of Levin......

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