By Anna Rushworth
A teenage girl's death has highlighted the importance of teaching school children the dangers of crossing rural roads in the Bay.
That's one finding of an inquest into the death of Kathleen Ruth Hunkin - known as Katie.
Katie, 15, died after a four-wheel-drive vehicle hit her outside her house in rural Te Puke on August 2.
She suffered serious head injuries and leg fractures when she was hit after getting off a school bus. She died at Auckland Hospital on August 7.
Coroner Michael Cooney said Katie's death was the result of a number of factors, including the school bus blocking her view of the road and drowning out the noise of the oncoming vehicle that hit her.
At the inquest in Tauranga on Friday, Constable Christopher Hills from the Greerton police strategic traffic unit detailed how the accident happened.
Katie, a Te Puke High School student, got off the bus outside her home on rural No 2 Rd about 4pm on Monday, August 2.
As she crossed the road the school bus resumed its journey south as the four-wheel drive vehicle was heading north towards her.
Mr Hills told the court that the driver might not have been able to see Katie because of the school bus, while Katie's view of the four-wheel-drive vehicle might have been blocked by the bus.
"They were both in a position of not being able to see one another," he said.
Mr Hills said the driver of the four-wheel-drive vehicle had told police Katie was looking down as she crossed the road.
The bus was about three bus lengths away from Katie when she was struck - ruling out the legal requirement for any other vehicles to drive at 20kmh when passing it.
He said that there was no blame on the driver's part. The driver had reacted and was in the process of breaking when she saw Katie but it was too late to stop.
He said schoolchildren were dropped off at bus stops in urban areas but in rural areas it was more common for children to be dropped off individually every couple of kilometres because of the size of farm properties. This meant passing motorists might not see schoolchildren as easily.
"It's unfortunately a common roading situation in a lot of our rural roads."
The coroner asked if a police unit still went around schools teaching children about road safety when getting off a bus.
Mr Hills said he could not honestly answer that question but such a step could be looked at in future.
He said Katie was new to Te Puke, which might have put her at a disadvantage when understanding the roads.
Mr Cooney said the community could learn from the tragedy and ensure such an accident did not happen again.
In summing up, Mr Cooney described Katie's death as "a timely, unfortunate reminder of the need for safety".
He said her death was the result of a number of factors. He said the bus, in pulling away from Katie, would have blocked the view of her for the driver of the four-wheel-drive.
Also, the noise of the bus would have drowned out the sound of the four-wheel-drive vehicle's approach for Katie, as well as blocked her vision of the oncoming vehicle.
Mr Cooney said schools and the community needed to take Katie's tragic death as a sign to reinforce road safety in schools.
By Anna Rushworth