Crash inquest: Emergency workers watched victim die

By Sophie Ryan, Jimmy Ellingham

Raymond Tuporo died in a car crash in which live wires obstructed rescuers for more than two and a half hours. Photo / Facebook
Raymond Tuporo died in a car crash in which live wires obstructed rescuers for more than two and a half hours. Photo / Facebook

Emergency workers have described how they watched signs of life ebb away from an Auckland man trapped inside a wreckage surrounded by live power-lines.

Meanwhile "anxious" lines company workers looked for the power box.

The emergency workers couldn't reach Raymond Tuporo for more than two hours and the 26-year-old died as a result of severe injuries suffered in the September 2, 2012, crash.

A coroner's inquest in Auckland today heard Mr Tuporo, known as Ray, lost control on a corner, drove over a curb and smashed into a power pole on Neilson St in Onehunga about 2.15am.

A police investigation found Mr Tuporo was driving about 120km/h in a 50km/h zone and had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit.

Ambulance officer Andrew Christie said when he arrived at the scene Mr Tuporo was severely injured and only his upper chest and head were visible.

"He was able to lift his head and respond to us with incomprehensible words and groans. His breathing was rapid and shallow." Medical staff kept regular checks on Mr Tuporo, from as close as they could get to him, but his responses were declining.

Shortly before 3am, Northpower employees arrived and said they would isolate the affected area in 15 to 20 minutes.

But more than an hour later, at 4.10am, they still hadn't done so.

Mr Christie said the workers were "looking anxious" and said they couldn't find the appropriate power box.

By 4.35am power was off and cutting equipment was put to work to free Mr Tuporo.

Five minutes later ambulance staff finally reached him, but he was dead, Mr Christie said.

Police Senior Sergeant Simon Welsh was the first officer at the scene.

He told the inquest he arrived to find the silver Mitsubishi wrapped around a concrete power pole which had bent in the impact and come down on top of the car.

"Numerous power lines were hanging down and draped along the top of the car. Fire advised me that the lines were live and not to touch the car."

He said he requested an urgent response from Vector to isolate the lines, then went as close as he could to the car to try to establish the identity of the driver.

Inquest Officer Sergeant Heather Ruddell said Mr Tuporo had been out drinking at a party in Otara, leaving about 1.45am and dropping off an acquaintance on his way home.

The acquaintance told police Mr Tuporo was "wasted".

Onehunga fire senior station officer John Roberts said when he arrived at the scene about 2.25am he could see one power line 100mm thick hanging down inside the wreck of the car.

He believed the line could carry between 11,000 and 33,000 volts.

"It clearly posed a deadly danger to emergency services and the occupant of the vehicle."

Mr Tuporo's mother Glenda Owen was at the inquest today and said outside that she hoped questions she had about her son's death would be answered.

"Somebody has to be held accountable," she said.

"I want to see justice for my son."

Coroner Morag McDowell said the inquest would be held in three stages throughout the year. It continues tomorrow.

- APNZ

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