'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