Coroner calls for barriers

By Corey Charlton, Anna Ferrick

For the second time in two years a coroner has called for barriers to be installed on Te Mata Peak, after a teenager died when his car plunged off the winding road earlier this year.

Formal recommendations of a coronial inquest into the death to Tom Angus Hay were released yesterday.

The 19-year-old died after he failed to negotiate a sharp right-hand bend while making his way down from the peak about 11pm on the night of January 21 this year.

His car tumbled about 150 metres down a steep bank, colliding with a large rock on the way down.

Head injuries were determined to be the cause of death.

Last month his mother Lou Hay said she thought it was "appalling" the council and Te Mata Park Trust had not acted on the coroner's recommendations to install barriers in 2011.

Senior Constable Chris Pye of the Hawke's Bay Serious Crash Unit said various scenarios leading up to the vehicle leaving the road had been considered.

One such scenario was that Mr Hay steered towards the edge of the road to avoid an oncoming vehicle or livestock on the road.

It was also considered that he could have been distracted while driving, possibly by his cellphone, although it has never been found.

The report stated there is no evidence that Mr Hay intended to take his life.

A report showed that over the past five years there have been two fatalities, two serious injuries, two minor injuries and two non-injury crashes on the road.

Sixty per cent of the crashes occurred after dark.

Coroner Christopher Devonport said while the young man was not wearing a seatbelt, his life would have likely been saved had barriers been installed following the death of another driver in a similar manner in 2010.

At an inquest into that death in 2011 Coroner Devonport recommended barriers be installed on the road, which in many points is wide enough for only one vehicle and features many blind corners.

However, no barriers had been installed at the time of Mr Hay's death.

"Had such a barrier been in place on the bend where Tom's vehicle left the road I consider it unlikely that Tom's vehicle would have left the road and plunged down the very steep bank resulting in his death."

Coroner Devonport also recommended appropriate markings be placed on the road edge to assist in identification of the outer edge

of the road.

"I consider that reflector markings will especially assist drivers at night if the Hastings District Council decides to not close the upper section of road to vehicular traffic during the hours of darkness."

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the council are taking the recommendations seriously.

"We are trying to find a solution.

"It's a difficult place to put barriers, due to how narrow the road is in some places, so the solution will likely be a combination of things."

Te Mata Park Trust chairman Bruno Chambers said the trust took the safety of the road extremely seriously and "accepts that safety of the road needs to be improved".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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