Road dangers a factor in deaths: Coroner

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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Angus Donald, 15, and his big brother Sam Angus, 19. PHOTO/FILE
Angus Donald, 15, and his big brother Sam Angus, 19. PHOTO/FILE

A coroner has called for the Western Lake Rd in rural Featherston to be made much safer after a crash in 2014 killed two Greytown brothers.

Coroner Garry Evans has found the road condition contributed to the death of Sam and Angus [Gus] Donald who had been on their way to the coast to fish when their ute crashed into a tree.

The coroner's report released this week said "the unsafe features" of the road were "contributory factors" to the July 10 crash, in which Sam, 19, and Gus, 15, died at the scene.

The factors included the lack of a safety shoulder on either side of the road and the lack of paint to mark the edge of the road seal.

The placement of a roadside drain, which was over 6cm lower than the edge of the road seal, and trees encroaching on to and over the seal were also contributary factors.

A court recommendation was made to the South Wairarapa District Council to make improvements to the road.

SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp said the council was still analysing and considering the "contributing factors".

"We are committed to making our roads as safe as possible, and once we have considered the report will take action as appropriate."

South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples said an engineer would be looking at the coroner's recommendations.

"And we will be looking at what we can do to encourage those recommendations."

Mrs Staples, who lives on Western Lake Rd, said she did not believe that the road was dangerous.

"There are areas that are narrow and like all rural roads you must drive to the conditions.

"They're not state highways and I do know that council maintains the road to the standard of the NZ Transport Agency.

"The council recognises we have had a tragic accident and our sympathies are with the family," she said.

Sam, a retail worker on the Kapiti Coast, had been driving the silver Ford Ranger utility vehicle towards Ocean Beach.

His younger brother, a boarder at Rathkeale College, had been in the front passenger seat.

Constable Glenn Marshall from the Wellington police district Serious Crash Unit told the inquest both left tyres of the vehicle had left the edge of the road seal.

In an attempt to get the ute back onto the road, Sam had over corrected causing the vehicle to slide sideways before colliding into a large native tree.

Mr Marshall said the position of the vehicle on the road and the over correction had been causative factors in the crash, which happened on a straight section of road.

He said the road's chip seal surface was well-worn.

Speed had not contributed to the initial loss of control. Tyre marks indicated the vehicle had been travelling between 92-100km/h.

The vehicle Sam was driving was not one he normally used and was much larger and higher off the ground than his own car, a Peugeot.

No faults were found with the vehicle.

Sam had a full class driver's licence and no alcohol or drugs were found in his system.

He had not been wearing a seatbelt but it could not be determined whether he would have survived had he been wearing it.

Mr Marshall said the weather had been fine and dry on the day of the crash which happened around 1.40pm.

"The court is saddened by the deaths of Angus and Samuel Donald," the report read.

"Their deaths are a grievous loss to their parents, Mr David and Mrs Tracie Donald, and the court extends to each of them, and to all members of their family, its sincere sympathy."

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