Coroner calls for barriers after fatal Te Mata Peak plunge

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The crash scene at Te Mata Peak. Photo / Patrick O'Sullivan
The crash scene at Te Mata Peak. Photo / Patrick O'Sullivan

For the second time a coroner has recommended barriers be installed on Hawkes Bay landmark Te Mata Peak after a teenager died when his car left the windy road earlier this year.

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

The 19-year-old died when his car, which he was driving down from the peak, left the road on a sharp right-hand bend and tumbled about 150 metres down a steep bank.

Head injuries were determined to be the cause of death.

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 Coroner Devonport recommended barriers be installed on the road, which is narrow and features many blind corners.

No barriers had been installed at the time of Mr Hay's death.

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

In the wake of the inquest, Hastings District Council and the Te Mata Peak Trust recognised the need for safety measures.

Transportation manager Jag Pannu said: ``It is recognised by council that the road and roadside up to the summit of Te Mata Peak does little to protect the driver in the event of a mistake. The road has been included in council's road safety programme and we have been actively investigating measures which will improve safety for drivers.

"We are currently in the detailed design phase of this and the work has been included in the 2012-2015 National Land Transport programme. It is envisaged that the implementation of the safety measures will begin in early 2014.''

He said the council had taken some steps in the wake of Coroner Devonport's recommendations in 2011, including a risk identification project, a programme of prioritisation for improvements, the lodgement of a funding request with NZ Transport Authority and a crash reduction study.

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''.

"No one wants a repeat of these sort of incidents,'' he said. "The management of the road has been vested to Hastings District Council and the trust has been having on-going discussions with council on the safety of the road.

"Due to the special character of the peak, and the district plan restrictions around that, it has been a slow process. There is a juggling act between retaining the special character of the area with ensuring that road users are safe.''

It was anticipated when the Te Mata Visitor and Education Centre was built, vehicle access would be restricted after dark.

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