An alcohol-impaired driver who took a shortcut over a Tauranga rail bridge has admitted causing the death of one of his passengers who was struck by an oncoming freight train.

Chris Harrison Mackie, 50, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing the death of Matthew Paul Pettigrew while driving with an excess blood alcohol in Tauranga District Court today.

Mackie admitted he was in charge of the Polaris off-road vehicle while the level of alcohol in his blood was 151 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

The adult legal limit is 80 milligrams.


The police summary of facts said the fatal crash happened about 8.10pm on February 23 this year after Mackie drove east on the Apata rail bridge.

Mackie and two friends had earlier been drinking alcohol at an address on Mountier Rd, Whakamarama.

Mackie and his two passengers, which included Matthew Pettigrew, 53, decided to drive down to the local creek to check for eels using the off-road vehicle.

On their way back home, Mackie decided to take a small detour and drove along the rail tracks, and as his vehicle neared the end of the rail bridge, a train came around the bend.

Mackie tried to manipulate his vehicle off the tracks and down a bank to the left, when Pettigrew leapt from the off-roader, but he was fatally struck by the oncoming train.

The train also collided with the Polaris vehicle, which caused it to spin around and fall back down the side of the railway tracks.

Mackie and his other passenger were not injured by the impact, while Pettigrew died as result of injuries he suffered after being hit by the train.

Mackie's lawyer Bill Nabney asked Judge Gregory Hollister-Jones to allow his client to continue to drive to enable him to get his affairs in order.


Judge Hollister-Jones, who remanded Mackie on bail pending sentencing on November 14, agreed to allow him to drive but said that was subject to a zero-alcohol driving ban.

The judge told Mackie that he was prepared to call for electronic-monitoring options along with the pre-sentence report, but that was on a "no-promises" basis, he said.