Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'The whole car load of boys were wasted'

Police were called to the scene of the crash on State Highway 2 at about 7.15pm, near the townships of Raupunga and Mohaka, about 20 kilometres southwest of Wairoa. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
Police were called to the scene of the crash on State Highway 2 at about 7.15pm, near the townships of Raupunga and Mohaka, about 20 kilometres southwest of Wairoa. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

All five farmworkers in a car that smashed into a truck at about 150km/h in rural Hawkes Bay in January, killing four of them, were "wasted'', a coroner has been told.

Alcohol, speed and a lack of seatbelts were all factors in the deaths of Zyah Giaani Marsh, 13, Kennedy James Weir, 49, Raimon Taire Keefe, 16, and Watson Oliver Tipu, 31.

The shearing gang members died when their car, driven by Mr Tipu, hit a 4WD towing a trailer and boat on State Highway 2 north of Raupunga, about 7.15pm, on January 25.

In evidence to Hastings Coroner Chris Devonport, Cherie Ultima Robinson said she and the boys went to the house of friend Vincent Hajnal-Huata after they finished shearing about 11.30am and drank alcohol until about 6pm.

Ms Robinson said she left the property in her car and the others followed in another being driven by Mr Tipu.

"The whole car load of boys were wasted. They had been drinking alcohol since 11 that morning ...,'' she said.

"I was driving at 100km/h when Watson overtook me. I would say Watson was travelling at about 140km/h. Watson was going around a corner which was a right bend, he didn't quite make the corner because I saw him cross the centre line.

"As this was happening a truck with a boat on the back was coming towards us. Watson basically went head into the front of the truck and this happened on the truck's lane. Watson's car bounced off the truck and ended up just off the road in a little bush on the left hand side of the road.''

Mr Tipu and the front seat passenger, Mr Hajnal-Huata, 17, were the only ones wearing seatbelts.

Mr Hajnal-Huata was the only survivor, sustaining minor injuries.

The man driving the Landcruiser, John Gordon Mort, said he had slowed down to take a corner when he saw Mr Tipu's cream-coloured Toyota Avalon approaching.

"I knew it was coming too fast,'' he told Coroner Devonport. "I could tell because of the way the body had moved and it was drifting over to my side of the road.

"The vehicle was in slow motion and I don't remember anything after that.''

Mr Mort was seriously injured in the crash.

Matthew Robert Jackson was driving in front of Mr Mort when he saw the cars.

"They were going fast. You could really hear how fast they were going. I could hear the motor of the white car really making an effort to keep up.''

Mr Tipu was on a restricted licence and breaking the law by carrying passengers. He had a blood alcohol level of 213 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The adult legal limit is 80mgr.

Crash investigators estimated the car was travelling about 150km/h immediately before the crash and said the driver had not been applying the brakes at the time.

Coroner Devonport found all four deaths were preventable.

"The fact that Mr Tipu was well in excess of the legal drink/drive alcohol limit was likely a major contributory factor. The fact that the three of the four passengers who were not wearing seatbelts died, and that Mr Hajnal-Huata, the front seat passenger who was wearing a seatbelt, survived, speaks for itself.''

Less than five months later, and only about 25km away, farmhands Jack Huata, Paul Thomas Parata (known as Boydie), Lou Phillip Wesley and James Raupita, were killed when their car crashed in a paddock on Waikare Rd near Putorino.

Police believed alcohol was a factor in the crash.

- APNZ

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