Truckie 'lied in log, may have been tired'

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR AND NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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A Napier man who died after losing control of his truck near Arthur's Pass had falsified his logbooks and may have been fatigued when the crash happened, a coroner's inquest has heard.

Piki Lewis Jones, 34, was driving from Christchurch to Greymouth when he lost control of the truck about 6.30am on June 22, 2011, and plunged down a steep bank above the Otira River.

At an inquest in Christchurch yesterday, Senior Constable Edwin Bell said a comparison of Jones' logbooks and electronic fuel receipts showed some "major discrepancies".

Bell said it appeared Jones had not been taking mandatory rest stops and fatigue could have been a factor in the crash. However, Jones had made no entries in his logbooks the day he died, so investigators would "never know" how fatigued he was.

Bell said although Jones had "full responsibility" for the falsified logbook entries, his employers, STL Linehaul, should have been monitoring its drivers.

"I don't think it's fair for the driver to police himself."

STL was not prosecuted over the falsified logbooks but was dealt with "under health and safety", Bell said.

Senior Constable Simon Burbery, of the serious crash unit, told the inquest there was no sign Jones had overused the truck's brakes on the day of the crash.

Any issues with the brakes would have developed over "weeks, maybe even months", suggesting they had been "poorly maintained".

Burbery also noted that police found cannabis in Jones' truck after the crash and said an autopsy found the drug was in his system.

Alexander Williams was also driving to Greymouth the morning Jones died. He told the inquest he caught up to Jones' truck near the top of Otira Gorge and noticed it was "travelling very slowly".

Jones pulled his truck into a passing lane and Williams overtook. He tried to contact Jones on his truck radio to check if he was OK but Jones did not reply.

"I was just keeping an eye on him. All truck drivers do that, we look after each other."

Jones then seemed to pick up speed and stayed close to Williams, which he said was good practice if a driver was unfamiliar with the route.

Further on, Williams noticed Jones' truck "getting a wee bit faster".

As Williams went around a corner, Jones' truck hit him from behind and went over the side.

The inquest before coroner Christopher Devonport is expected to conclude tomorrow.

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- The Press

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