A man fatally crushed in a workplace accident involving his truck told his mother just moments before his death he had deep concerns about the vehicle.
The worker's parents waited five years to share the information after being "left on the outside" of investigations into the tragedy.
The worker, who has name suppression, was killed on March 14, 2016, while operating a swing-loader truck and trailer at a Totara St site owned by the Port of Tauranga. The yard is leased to the man's employer, Coda Operations Limited Partnership (Coda) from which Priority Logistics operates.
The worker's mother and step-father, who also have name suppression, gave evidence yesterday at Tauranga District Court during the fourth day of a coronial inquest into the man's death.
The mother said her son was "very experienced truck driver" who had been driving for 20 to 25 years and "would know if something was wrong".
She said her son told her he was not happy at work and was so concerned about his machine "he was thinking seriously about leaving and returning to [other] work instead".
"[He] told me his truck wasn't working properly, something was not right with it," she said.
"On the day [he] passed, I got a text from [him]. This is something I will always be grateful for. He said that day there was something wrong with the truck. I told him he should talk to [his boss] about it. He said 'I can't talk to him'. He said 'I love you mum', I told him 'I love you too'.
"I understand it's been a long time since [my son's] death but I remember this conversation clearly."
The mother said her son was "quite an outspoken person" and not usually afraid to speak up if needed. This was the first time he ever had any problem raising issues, she said.
"I believe [my son] would still be here if there was a better system at Priority Logistics for making sure all the trucks were in proper working order and drivers made to feel comfortable and confident about raising issues.
"I do not want any other family to go through what we experienced. We want to make sure there is a learning about [his] death."
The mother said the loss of her son had a "profound impact" on her whānau, and herself.
"[He] was my rock," she said.
Seated next to his wife, the step-father said that although he was not the worker's biological father, he had cared for him since he was 2 years old.
"As far as I'm concerned, he is my son. I miss him every day."
The step-father confirmed the conversations between his son and his mother about the "problems with his truck" and the reservations of raising the issue at work.
"I observed the pride [my son] took to his job as a truck driver. I believe he was careful. This is why his death came as such a shock to us.
The worker's mother and step-father said they told Worksafe of their son's concerns at the time of its investigation that lead to the 2017 criminal case. They later learned the individual left Worksafe and heard nothing more about it.
"No one ever came to interview us about the concerns or information we had about [our son] and his work," he said.
"There was an investigation and we were left on the outside."
The step-father also said he did not want any other family to go through what they have endured "and continue to go through each day".
"When you lose a family member in a workplace accident, it is a horrible experience. [My son] went to work one morning and didn't come home. He was killed doing his job. This shouldn't happen."
The step-father referred to his approach to the stand in court, saying that it was "the longest walk I've ever done".
"It's finally come. We can now move on but deep in our hearts this will never be closure for us.
"I know our kids are here today. I know they are around, I can feel their wairua."
Coroner Matthew Bates thanked the parents: "I know this will never completely be over for you but I hope some weight has been lifted today".
Coda general manager for health and safety Louis Buckingham was next to take the stand, saying the incident "would not happen today".
This was due to the company's increased focus on health and safety, including allowing drivers to opt out of jobs they did not feel safe doing, he said.
Under questioning from counsel Genevieve Haszard, representing the worker's whānau, Buckingham - who did not know the worker and joined the company in 2019 - said Coda took full responsibility for its role in the tragedy. However, "other parties" were also involved in the truck's repair, maintenance and design during its time with Priority Logisitics.
The court heard there were issues with the truck's remote, which was replaced in December 2015. However, doubt was raised regarding its condition.
Haszard asked: "If the remote was not working on 14 March, 2016, ... because there was a fault, could that be a reason [the worker] ended up being in a place where he shouldn't have been?"
Buckingham said he could not say specifically but with many swing-lift trucks, there was not the possibility to operate them manually, without a remote, to the best of his knowledge.
The inquest continues.