Speed and booze claimed four lives

STACEY KIRK AND MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 08:34 21/06/2012
Wairoa fatal crash
JOHN COWPLAND/SNPA

DRINK DRIVE TRAGEDY: Speed and alcohol were factors in the crash.

Watson Tipu
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WATSON TIPU: Was driving drunk.
Fatal Wairo crash wreck
CRASH WRECK: The remains of the car the shearing gang were travelling in.

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Four men died in a Hawke's Bay crash because the driver was drunk, speeding and on the wrong side of the road and they were not wearing seatbelts, a coroner has found.

Coroner Chris Devonport said in his findings, released today, that the deaths of Watson Oliver Tipu, 31, Zyah Giaani Marsh, 13, Kennedy James Weir, 49, and Raimon Taire Keefe, 16, earlier this year were preventable.

On January 25, about 7pm, the Toyota Avalon which Tipu was driving over the Mohaka Hill, 20 minutes south of Wairoa, collided with a Toyota Landcruiser travelling in the opposite direction.

Tipu had a reading of 213 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal blood limit for a driver 20 years or over is 80mg per 100ml. He was driving so fast that he didn't have time to apply the brakes before colliding with the landcruiser.  

He had the highest blood/alcohol reading out of all of those killed. The back seat passengers, Marsh, Weir and Keefe, had readings of between 173 to 184 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The men had been drinking since about 11.30am that day, and according to a witness statement, they had only stopped about an hour before getting in the car.

In a written statement to the Coroner's Court, Cherie Ultima Robinson, of Wairoa, said she, Tipu, Marsh, Weir and Keefe, along with Vincent Hajnal-Huata, all went to Hajnal-Huata's house after a morning's shearing to begin drinking.

She said she left the house about 6pm in her own car, and the rest followed in the Toyota Avalon.

"That whole car-load of boys were wasted.

"I was going 100kmh when Watson overtook me. I would say Watson was travelling about 140kmh."

She said  Tipu was going around a corner which was a tight bend, but couldn't quite make it so he had to cross the centre line.

"As this was happening a truck with a boat on the back was coming towards us."

The two collided, and Tipu, who appeared to be wearing a seatbelt, took the brunt of the impact. Hajnal-Huata, who was the frontseat passenger and wearing a seatbelt, was the only person to survive the crash.

Matthew Robert Jackson, of Waipukurau was travelling just ahead of the Landcruiser when he passed Tipu's and Robinson's car.

"They were going fast. You could really hear how fast they were going. I could hear the motor of the white car [Tipu's] really making an effort to keep up."

He said when he got to his destination at Napier, he heard about the crash and immediately assumed it was one of the two cars which had collided with the Landcruiser and boat.

Eastern District Serious Crash Unit Senior Constable Dougall Watts said the weather was fine and it was still daylight when the crash happened.

"An examination of the brake light bulbs revealed evidence to support the conclusion that the driver, Mr Tipu, had not been applying the brakes at the time of the crash."

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