Chips and dip death: man swerved to save others

23:17, Dec 17 2012

The father of a Marton man who died in a Marlborough car crash while eating chips and dip says he was not surprised his son took the route that placed himself in the most danger.

''That was his character really,'' said David Stantiall.

The University of Canterbury student, Benjamin David Stantiall, 22, was driving his ute north along State Highway 1 near Seddon on November 7 last year, when he lost control.

To avoid a northbound tractor and another car in front of him that had pulled to the right, Mr Stantiall swerved left and drove along the verge for about 25 metres before hitting a tree. ''He wouldn't have wanted to hurt anybody,'' said Stantiall.

''It was just a pure accident. There was no real cause, just a moment's inattention and he just paid the consequences.''

Stantiall said his son had just finished his studies for the year and was on his way home.


''We were expecting him home that night but it was not to be.''

He died at the scene. An autopsy confirmed he suffered multiple fatal injuries, including a massive brain injury caused by a sudden impact to the lower right side of his face.

Palmerston North coroner Carla na Nagara yesterday ruled Stantiall was distracted and did not see the tractor until it was too late.

Chips and dip were found in the ute's cab and the autopsy confirmed he had been eating at the time of his death.

''Following a moment of distraction - quite possibly from reaching for food/eating - Mr Stantiall found himself having to make a split second decision to avoid collision with other vehicles,'' na Nagara said.

''Of the three options available to him, he chose the one that posed the greatest risk to himself, and the least to the other nearby road users.  Tragically, he was unable to control his vehicle on the grass verge, leading to the fatal impact with the tree.''

The report found Stantiall had not been speeding or using a phone at the time of the crash. No mechanical or road faults were found.

He was not wearing a seatbelt but a pathologist was unable to confirm if this was a factor in his death.

''The case is a startling example of the devastating consequences that can follow momentary distraction while driving,'' na Nagara said.

Manawatu Standard