Residents saw a car doing burnouts on a grass verge minutes before a vehicle collided with a power pole, killing its driver, a coroner's court has heard.

Peter Wayne Gleeson, 17, was killed instantly in the impact near Kaniere, 30km south of Hokitika, on June 22 last year, an inquest in Greymouth heard yesterday.

He encountered no other vehicles or obstacles before the crash on the long, straight section of road.

Witnesses said a car matching the description of Mr Gleeson's did burnouts and damaged the grass verge before speeding off, minutes before a power cut when the power pole was struck.


Sergeant Philip Ealam told coroner Richard McElrea that Mr Gleeson had been drinking and smoking cannabis the night before the fatality. He drove off about 1am with a friend in the passenger seat.

The weather was foggy, with low mist across the marshy ground, and the rural road was unlit. Gleeson navigated a downhill curve without incident, but while driving along the straight his left wheels strayed into the soft grass. Skid marks on the road indicated that he over-corrected, lost control of the vehicle and struck the pole side-on.

Both he and his passenger had to be cut out of the car. His passenger was flown to Grey Base Hospital with severe injuries, but Mr Gleeson was killed instantly.

Police crash investigation expert Senior Constable Simon Burberry told the hearing there was no indication of faults in the road or involvement of any other person or vehicle.

Mr Gleeson was driving in breach of his restricted driver's licence, which required a supervisor in the front passenger seat between 10pm and 5am.

He had a blood-alcohol level of 131 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood, well above both the adult limit and alcohol restrictions for minors at the time.

Since then, a policy of zero blood-alcohol concentration for underage drivers has been instated.

The coroner will issue his written findings at a later date.


- Greymouth Star