Three American students killed when their van rolled near Turangi last year could be alive today if they had been wearing seatbelts, an inquest has heard.
Roch Nicholas Jauberty, 21, Austin Perry Brashears, 21, and Daniela Rosanna Lekhno, 20, died at the scene of the crash on State Highway 46 at Rangipo about 7.15am on May 12 last year.
They were part of a group of Boston University students travelling from Taupo to walk the Tongariro Crossing.
The three were thrown from the people carrier after driver Stephen Houseman drifted to the left then over corrected three times, causing the vehicle to flip and roll four times.
A fourth passenger, Margaret Theriault, suffered serious injuries.
None of the four were wearing seatbelts - despite Mr Houseman twice telling his passengers to belt up. Mr Houseman and the three other passengers were wearing their belts and suffered only minor injuries.
At today's inquest in Rotorua, Coroner Dr Wallace Bain referred to Mr Houseman's sworn statement where he said he told his passengers he was not leaving Taupo until they all had their seatbelts on. When they stopped at Turangi for petrol, he repeated that.
Dr Bain said it could only be concluded the four had at some point removed their seatbelts.
`"f you have a better testament to the wearing of seatbelts this has to be it.''