A medical event? A vehicle turning in front of him? Or some other factor?
Whatever it was that caused Katikati man Colin Stephenson to lose control of his motorcycle on Wairakei Dr, north of Taupō, on March 29, 2019 cannot be determined, the Coroner has ruled.
Coroner Gordon Matenga today released his finding into the death of Stephenson, 59, after holding an inquest into the matter in Taupō last week.
Stephenson died as a result of severe head and chest injuries following a motorcycle crash.
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At around 2.15pm on March 29, 2019 Stephenson was riding his 2014 Suzuki GSX 1300RA Hayabusa motorcycle on Wairakei Dr when he lost control of the bike on the approach to a left-hand bend. He narrowly avoided a head-on collision with a ute which had seen the motorcycle approaching and was hugging the centre line of the road.
The motorcycle then went off the road, through the grass verge, and across Wairākei Rd, hitting a pole and stationary vehicles in the Wairākei Terraces carpark.
During the inquest the Coroner was told that Stephenson was on a half-hour 2pm break from his work as a labouring engineer at Wairākei and was riding to the BP Wairākei service station to check his bank balance at the ATM when the crash occurred.
The inquest heard that he was anxious to find out whether his wages had been deposited as he was short of money, after a hold-up with his pay. He had also checked the ATM at 4am that day and again at the first smoko break at 10am.
Constable Paul Wraight of the Taupō road policing group said in his evidence that the crash occurred after Stephenson failed to keep left while negotiating a moderate left-hand curve. Speed calculations showed the motorbike was travelling between 92 and 95km/h at the time, Wraight said. The speed limit in the area is 80km/h.
There were no vehicle faults or problems with the road, the weather was dry and Stephenson was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He was an experienced motorcyclist.
Witnesses stated Stephenson looked as though he was out of control, Wraight said. His conclusion was that he was unable to determine why Stephenson had lost control of his bike.
Tawhai Te Moana, who had just left BP Wairākei with his wife Veronica and three grandchildren, was heading north along Wairākei Dr in his ute when he saw a motorbike coming towards them moving "pretty fast" and in a manner that looked as though the rider had lost control.
Te Moana moved his vehicle over in his lane to hug the centre line to avoid the motorbike, which passed by him on the passenger side.
Stephenson's brother Ian Stephenson, who was cross-examining witnesses, suggested that a Mitsubishi Pajero that CCTV footage showed had been travelling in front of the Te Moanas' ute at the time of the crash, might have pulled across the road in front of Stephenson's motorbike and into a side forestry road, causing Stephenson to take evasive action.
Mr and Mrs Te Moana both said they could not recall seeing a vehicle in front. Wraight said none of the evidence he had gathered supported Ian Stephenson's theory.
"I believe that the Pajero was out of sight, probably over the back of the bridge and going down towards the roundabout."
The Coroner said in his finding that he accepted there was a possibility that the Pajero seen on CCTV footage may have been a factor in causing Stephenson to lose control. However there were also other possibilities such as a medical event.
The autopsy showed Mr Stephenson had ischemic (coronary) heart disease which could have brought on a cardiac event which may have caused Stephenson to lose control of his motorcycle.
Coroner Matenga also said there was no evidence upon which he could make any findings in relation to the Pajero other than it being observed by the security camera six seconds prior to the Te Moanas' ute.
"There is no evidence that the Pajero turned right into the path of Mr Stephenson causing him to lose control. There is also no evidence that that did not happen. In the end then, I am left to agree with Constable Wraight. The reason Mr Stephenson lost control of his motorcycle cannot be determined," the Coroner's finding said.