A man who objected to noise coming from a caravan at a Northland campground was electrocuted when he cut through a power cord, a coroner has ruled.

Matthew Andrew Smith, 26, was killed when he tried to use a Leatherman tool to sever a power cord connected to the offending caravan.

Smith, a lighting technician, was later found lying face down with the tool fused to his hand, coroner Debra Bell found.

He died on January 14, 2015, at the Whangaruru Beachfront Motor Camp in Oakura.


He and his best friend Richard Voschezang went to bed about 10.30pm. But neither could sleep because of a noisy stereo nearby.

Two hours later Smith became frustrated with the noise and told Voschezang he was going to disconnect the power to the caravan.

About 3am Smith was found by another camper, Joshua Basnett, who went outside to investigate why he had no power.

Basnett tried to wake Smith, but received a shock when he touched his body.

Basnett called for assistance, then unplugged the cord from the power box as smoke came up from Smith's body.

Meanwhile Voschezang was woken by the commotion and came outside to see what was going on. He rolled Smith's body over and found his friend's pliers embedded into him.

Emergency services were unable to revive Smith.

Police said Smith had removed the power cord from the caravan but left the other end of the cable plugged into the campground power box.

It then appeared Smith had tried to cut the power cord using a metal Leatherman multi-tool.

The tool was fused into his hand, along with a half-cut power cord.

The power authority checked the site's power source and found it was in satisfactory condition.

Energy Safety NZ senior technical officer Miles Bonfield said residual current devices, introduced in 2013, only have to be put in at new campsite installations, so the Whangaruru campsite did not have to have them, the inquest findings said.

Police were satisfied that there was no evidence to indicate foul play.

Bell recommended that RCDs be installed at all New Zealand camping and caravan parks to protect people from the risk of harmful electric shocks.