Paramedic describes fatal crash drama

20:40, Jun 03 2014

A paramedic has told an inquest how he watched a man die in his car as power company staff tried to cut off electricity.

Favona resident Raymond Piripi Tuporo, 26, was trapped in his vehicle for more than two hours after hitting a concrete power pole in the Auckland suburb of Onehunga on September 2, 2012.

Emergency services were at the incident in minutes but could not treat the man for fear of electrocution.

When they finally got to Tuporo he had died from head and neck injuries. 

His family were outraged at the time, believing he could have been saved if things had been done more quickly.

The inquest began in Auckland this morning and Coroner Morag McDowell said the hearing would take an "unusual" staged format.


The inquest would hear evidence today from those who were at the scene, before experts analysed that evidence.

The case would then go back before the coroner where those experts would give their findings, while the final stage would see electricity providers questioned over their role.

Much of today's hearing was expected to centre on Tuporo's medical condition in the aftermath of the smash and whether quicker access to him could have saved his life.

Senior station officer at Onehunga fire station John Roberts said he was on the scene minutes after the crash and the semi-conscious victim was mumbling and trying to move while trapped.

Roberts said he stood within metres of Tuporo but could not touch him because of the high-voltage power lines in and around the car.

"Blood was dripping on the footpath from his torso but I could not see the source of the blood," he said.

St John Ambulance paramedic Andrew Christie said there were two electricity workers on site who looked "very anxious" as they tried to isolate the power supply, making it safe to access the vehicle.

The process was slowed down because they could not find the appropriate power box, Christie said.

The first police officer on site Senior Sergeant Simon Welsh told the inquest he repeatedly contacted police communications to urgently get in touch with Vector.

Tuporo, a truck driver, originally decided not to go out on the night of September 1 but text messages from friends changed his mind, the inquest heard.

He left for a party in Otara with a blanket and pillow and assured his mother Glenda Olsen he would not drink and drive.

However, after consuming a significant amount of alcohol, Tuporo drove off with a friend whom he took home.
"He was wasted when he dropped me off," the man told police.

Blood tests showed Tuporo's alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit and the police serious crash unit investigation put his speed as high as 122kmh at the time he lost control of his vehicle.

While travelling west down Neilson St at about 2.15am, he skidded on to the wrong side of the road before veering back.

But he could not right the Mitsubishi Lancer, mounted the kerb and hit a concrete power pole.

Emergency services were on the scene quickly but could not get to Tuporo because of fallen power cables.

Welsh told the inquest the live power lines were "draped over the vehicle" and he got as close as he could to establish the state of the driver.

"I saw his head in the rear passenger area but the rest of his body was not visible because the vehicle's interior had collapsed around him," Welsh said.

He asked Tuporo his name but only received strained noises in response.

It was only about 4.40am - nearly two and a half hours after the crash - that emergency services could safely access the wrecked car.

Tuporo was pronounced dead at the scene and was eventually extracted from the wreck at 6.40am.

The first stage of the inquest will conclude tomorrow.