John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Witness tells Tauranga Coroner's Court crash victim's last words

A rose marks the scene of the fatal car crash on Mountain Rd, Oropi, two years ago. Photo/file
A rose marks the scene of the fatal car crash on Mountain Rd, Oropi, two years ago. Photo/file

The dying words of an 18-year-old Tauranga man flung out of his car in a crash following a short police pursuit were that he did not want the police to get him.

A witness appearing in yesterday's coroner's inquest into the death of Levi Penberthy-Green heard the words as she bent over him.

Indiah Hope Louise Reid was the first person to reach the Mountain Rd crash scene from Mr Penberthy-Green's group of friends. He was lying under his Nissan Cefiro that had rolled down a bank about 170m from the scene of a woolshed party in Oropi two years ago.

She told Coroner Michael Robb that she heard a noise like a bang and then saw the car go down the bank.

Earlier evidence to the inquest was that the Cefiro had been travelling slowly compared to the police car and that the bang was associated with the claim that it had been clipped by the police car before it plunged down the bank.

Miss Reid was unsure what made her look in the direction of the car and did not hear a siren, but immediately recognised the Cefiro's distinctive fog lights.

She ran to the corner and, in her statement to police made three months after the crash, she said she thought the car at the top of the hill was an unmarked mufti police car.

Miss Reid scrambled down the bank, and when she did not see anyone in the car she thought Mr Penberthy-Green had "done a runner'', but the second of her friends to reach the crashed car spotted him lying under the car - still alive but in a lot of pain.

"Levi said he did not want the police to get him."

She described him as being "away with the fairies pretty much".

Under cross-examination by police lawyer David Pawson, she said she thought it was an undercover police car because she could not see markings or a light on top. When pressed on her recollections, she said: "I was drunk, and I don't remember it."

Another witness Shane Harrison who arrived at 10.45pm to pick up his daughter from the Bethlehem College student party saw a lot of youths walking around on the road drinking.

In his statement to police taken soon after the crash, he said he saw a youth about 18 swearing at a group which then began chasing him. Less than a minute later a car drove off, with the group moving out of the way and no one being hit. However, he heard a thud as the car passed him.

Mr Harrison said he turned on the hazard lights of his car and then someone who was intoxicated wanted to know what he was doing and told him to "... off" because his partner had been hit by the car that drove off.

Mr Harrison was threatened with a beer bottle and responded by winding up his window nearly to the top, saying he was there to pick up some people. The man then smashed the window with the bottle, covering him and the inside of the car with shards of glass, with blood from the man's hand, also sprayed around. The rear door of the car was kicked in.

However, he was later unable to identify the man to police because it was too dark. "I was in a state of shock."

His daughter then arrived, and they drove off, encountering what he said was an unmarked police car heading towards the party followed by a policeman in a marked car who briefly stopped to speak to him but had to carry on because he had been called to assist.

Mr Pawson put it to Mr Harrison that he had been mistaken about the order of the cars and that the patrol car had come first.

He responded: "It would say it is possible I was mistaken...I could have incorrectly remembered the order of the cars."

Mr Pawson repeatedly quizzed witnesses about their recollections, centring on the darkness, what could be seen of the crash site from the farm gate and whether the first car to arrive at the scene was a marked car.

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