One of the drivers involved in a horror two-car crash that killed seven people at Waverley had repeatedly consumed synthetic cannabis that day, an inquest has heard.
And the sole survivor - who lost her partner and two daughters - says she cannot remember the crash because she was "synnied out".
The devastated family of the innocent people killed in the other car have made an impassioned plea for police to test for drugged drivers.
The coroner's hearing into one of New Zealand's deadliest car crashes was held today in Whanganui - almost a year on from the crash that killed seven people.
Coroner Tim Scott held an inquest into the two-vehicle crash. Seven people died on State Highway 3 just outside of the Taranaki town of Waverley on June 27 last year.
Ian Porteous, 80, his wife Rosalie, 76, his sister Ora Keene, 84, and friend Brenda Williams, 79, were travelling in one vehicle and died at the scene.
Ani Nohinohi was the sole survivor of the other car involved, and suffered extensive injuries. Her partner Jeremy Thompson, 28, her daughter Nivek Madams, 8, and 6-month-old daughter Shady Thompson died.
Nivek Madams had celebrated her 8th birthday the day before the crash.
The officer in charge of the incident, Detective Karl Reyland, said Thompson had smoked more than three cones of synthetic cannabis on the morning of the fatal crash.
Reyland said Thompson, Nohinohi and the two children were at an address in Stratford, but left following an argument between Nohinohi and another family member.
The detective said Thompson was on his learner's licence and had more than 100 demerit points to his name.
Reyland said the vehicle stopped in Hawera and Thompson smoked more synthetic cannabis before ordering McDonald's. The inquest heard Thompson was slurring his words and making "inexplicable" changes to his food order.
He said shortly after while heading south on State Highway 3, Thompson had lost control of the vehicle, crossed the centreline and collided with the other vehicle involved in the crash.
An autopsy revealed the presence of the drugs Ketamine, Fentanyl and Rocuronium in Thompson's blood.
Reylands said it was likely that all of these drugs were administered to Thompson by
medical personnel, but that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was also detected in the urine.
Sole survivor 'synnied out'
Nohinohi limped to the witness box to give her statement, which was read out by a police officer.
She admitted she had also consumed synthetic cannabis that day and could not remember anything after stopping in Hawera to buy more drugs.
They were heading to see Nivek's father, Kevin Madams, in Rimutaka Prison. Madams is watching today's inquest evidence via A/V link from prison.
"I think it is quite likely that I had fallen asleep because I had been 'synnied out'," Nohinohi's statement said.
Nohinohi had synthetics in the car, but none was smoked because of the two children also inside the vehicle.
While in Hawera the family stopped at a park near where they picked up bags of synthetic cannabis and to let Nivek play.
Nohinohi and Thompson then continued smoking the drug.
Questioned, by Logan Porteous, son of Ian and Rosalie, Nohinohi confirmed that she knew Thompson had consumed synthetic cannabis before driving - but she was "wasted" herself.
When Porteous asked if she realised the impact the fatal crash had on the families involved she broke down.
Nohinohi fought back tears and briefly couldn't answer, before saying she was sorry for the four people travelling in the other vehicle that were killed.
Coroner Scott asked Nohinohi if it was fair to say Thompson was in a worse state than her at the time of the crash and she agreed.
Joy Clark, who was present to support Nohinohi, read out a statement at the end of the inquest.
She said the two had come up with the statement at 1am this morning when neither could get to sleep.
Clark said it was poor choices that resulted in seven people losing their lives, and that Nohinohi was sorry for all those who are still suffering.
Nohinohi had told the coroner that she thought her partner was OK to drive because he had smoked synthetic cannabis before and then driven.
McDonald's worker smelled cannabis in car
The McDonald's worker was not in court to give her statement so it was read out by Senior Constable Mark Stoud.
Stoud said the witness had observed the car smelt of cannabis and that she saw Nohinohi putting a material into a pipe and smoking it.
The witness saw a young child in the back seat of the car who was not wearing a seatbelt.
Christine O'Byrne witnessed the crash and told the inquest about watching as Thompson's car drifted across the centre line.
She was travelling behind the car Rosalie Porteous was driving and was about 20 metres behind and noticed Thompson's car heading towards the wrong side of the road.
"I remember thinking 'they need to correct themselves' and then it collided," O'Byrne said.
After the crash there was a "horrible" silence.
Family's plea for more police drugged driver testing
Coroner Scott concluded the inquest by saying that it was a sad and stressful experience for everyone in attendance.
"It was a terrible situation and I can't imagine how stressful and upsetting it can be."
Scott said he has completed many traffic accident inquests - but nothing to the scale of seven people dying in one incident.
The coroner told Logan Porteous, in regards to him asking Nohinohi what impact the incident has had, that Nohinohi herself would have an idea after losing her partner and two children.
Outside court Logan Porteous said he would like to see more support for police to test for drug driving.
"It's not our roads causing out road toll as much as the drivers," he said.
"We will as a family fight for this in the name of the innocent people who were killed in this accident, as a result of a driver under the influence of drugs."
Porteous noted how quickly the Government had changed gun laws after the mosque shootings.
"So it can be done again, it's up to the politicians."
Porteous said he was completely numb after hearing the evidence that the crash was caused by drug driving.
"To be honest right now the grief hasn't hit me, it's just something you have to deal with."
He said the crash was absolutely avoidable.
"Everyone has a choice to either drink, or in this situation take drugs, then get in a car."
Porteous said the last 11 months since losing his parents in the crash has been hard and that he got quite angry at times.
"I thought there was a lack of admission of their fault, simple as that," he said.
"The whole day we probably have received some closure, but a little lack of closure as well.
"It does not make sense that the police are not in a position where they can randomly drug test drivers on the road,
"I'm from Melbourne where it's commonplace there, so why can't it be brought in here?"
The public gallery at today's inquest was full with more than 40 friends and family of those lost in the crash.
Family members of Nivek Madams attended wearing shirts with prints of the child on them.
'Close sisters' died in crash
A Givealittle page set up at the time said Nivek and Shady were "close sisters and part of a caring whānau, deeply loved by their friends & family. Their tragic passing has been devastating for everyone and we are grateful for the outpouring of support from the community".
"As the new cluster of Matariki stars for those who have left us were announced these little lives sadly slid away."
Nohinohi was critically injured in the crash - she is one of six witnesses to be called at the inquest.
She has had a long road to recovery, and told Stuff before today's inquest that while some of her scars were visible, she tried to hide others.
"When I do cry, it's not a big, big cry. I don't like other people to see me crying."
She told Stuff she remembered leaving the Hāwera township on the morning of the crash, but nothing else until waking up in hospital.
Her delivered the tragic news about her family.
"She goes 'sorry love, Jeremy and the girls are in heaven'," Nohinohi told Stuff.
"I was destroyed."
A granddaughter of Ian and Rosalie Porteous, Shay Starrenburg, said on behalf of her family following the tragedy that they were in shock.
"We are a very close family and still can't believe this has happened."
The couple had been married for 54 years and were "extremely loving family people".
At the time the Waverley crash was the worst on New Zealand roads in 13 years, and the fourth deadliest of all time.
In April this year eight people died in a crash north of Taupō - the third deadliest on record.
The worst fatal crash in New Zealand's history was recorded in 1963, when 15 people were killed in a bus crash in Northland.
In 1995, eight people died in a house bus crash in Hawke's Bay. In 2005, nine people died in a collision between a tourist van and a truck in Matamata-Piako.