Fatal plunge victim's fault

00:00, Aug 29 2012

A poor building inspection and a "casual approach" to liquor licence obligations may have contributed to the death of a Levin man, but a coroner says he ultimately "did this to himself".

Mark David Nicholls, a 54-year-old shop assistant, fell from the first floor of the Oxford Hotel about 11pm on April 6 last year. He landed on his head and died in Palmerston North Hospital the next day.

In his report, coroner Tim Scott said the railing Mr Nicholls fell over was not high enough.

It had been inspected by one person and signed off by building compliance certifier David Yule, who had said if he had seen the railing he would not have signed it off.

"Both the council and the building owner . . . were entitled to rely upon the inspection . . . and to take from that that there were no issues with the height of the barrier," Mr Scott said.

Bar duty manager Lisa Hooper did not have the correct qualifications and should not have given Mr Nicholls any alcohol.


"She stated to police she had no concern about serving them as the pub was their home, so the only place they would be going later was upstairs.

"That suggests to me that she was aware they had had too much to drink - that she may not have served them had she believed they were going somewhere else that night.

"Sadly, that is no reason to serve someone who was intoxicated, as events later that night confirm."

Mr Scott criticised Ms Hooper and former hotel owner John Thwaites.

"The kindest view that I can take is that . . . they were casual and ignorant. Had Ms Hooper had the appropriate level of training, perhaps she would have recognised the need firstly, not to serve Mark and, secondly, to see that he was escorted to a place of safety."

But Mr Scott ruled that, ultimately, Mr Nicholls "did this to himself"'.

"The fundamental reason why he fell is because he was intoxicated."

At the inquest, statements from witnesses detailed the events leading up to Mr Nicholls' death.

On that day, he picked up his wife Thelma from work.

They went home and drank about three glasses of wine each, before heading to a pub where they drank about six jugs of beer between them, along with some whisky.

They went back to the Oxford Hotel and had at least one more jug of beer, before Mr Nicholls went to his room. He then went to an outdoor walkway on the first floor and fell off the end into the garden bar, landing on his head.

If the barrier had been higher and he had not been served his last drink the death may not have occurred, Mr Scott said.

"However, it is quite possible that the accident and his death would have occurred regardless of these factors."

The death was ruled to not be a suicide.

Ms Hooper and Mr Yule could not be reached for comment.

Manawatu Standard