Marlborough Sounds resident fears another fatal accident on Kenepuru Rd

Scott Engstrom has lived off Kenepuru Rd in the Marlborough Sounds for the past 20 years, and says upgrades are urgently ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Scott Engstrom has lived off Kenepuru Rd in the Marlborough Sounds for the past 20 years, and says upgrades are urgently needed.

It was an accident waiting to happen, and an accident the council had been warned about.

Resident Scott Engstrom predicted a fatality on the winding Kenepuru Rd, in the Marlborough Sounds, and fears another if it is not made safer. 

Kenepuru Rd is one of the most scenic drives in Marlborough, but one fraught with blind corners, fragile edges and narrow sections.

Shawn Cameron Bartlett, 31, died on the road after rolling his truck near Portage on June 1.

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The Blenheim man's small dump truck left the road and rolled about 3 metres down the bank, before landing upside down on its roof. No other vehicles were involved.

A section of the Marlborough Sounds road.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

A section of the Marlborough Sounds road.

Engstrom, 73, had lived off the road for the past 20 years.

The retired real estate agent said she emailed the Marlborough District Council two months before the fatal crash, saying somebody would die if the uneven surfaces of Kenepuru Rd were not fixed.

The condition of the road beside cliffs made it an accident waiting to happen, Engstrom said.

A memorial cross for Shawn Cameron Bartlett, 31, who died after rolling his truck near Portage.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

A memorial cross for Shawn Cameron Bartlett, 31, who died after rolling his truck near Portage.

"I've gone from sad to very mad ... It is just a horrible death and it is totally unnecessary," she said.

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"I feel so sorry for him and his family. It will affect them forever.

"The road isn't wide enough for two cars to pass yet it has a white line down the middle," she said.

The site where Bartlett's small dump truck left the road and rolled about 3 metres down the bank on June 1.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The site where Bartlett's small dump truck left the road and rolled about 3 metres down the bank on June 1.

"Nothing is going to be done, and I'm worried there will be another death. How many lives are we going to lose before something changes?"

Kenepuru Rd connected the port towns of Picton and Havelock to the outer edges of the Marlborough Sounds over a winding 50 kilometres.

The narrow stretch of bitumen was formed over varied topography and suffered extensive damage following the November earthquake and subsequent storms.

A view from a lay-by on Kenepuru Rd.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

A view from a lay-by on Kenepuru Rd.

While the council was working to upgrade the damaged sections, Engstrom said the road needed a larger slice of funding to improve infrastructure.

The roading issues were exacerbated in summer as tourists clogged up the road with camper vans and often drove on the wrong side of the road, she said.

Marlborough Roads highway manager Frank Porter said police were still investigating the fatal crash, and no specific actions would be made until the outcome of the investigation was known.

The turnoff to Kenepuru Rd, between Havelock and Picton.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The turnoff to Kenepuru Rd, between Havelock and Picton.

"Some delineation has been added at the immediate site, following minor damage to the road edge," he said.

"Council always reviews the outcome of any crash and undertakes improvements where practicable. Should there be any recommendations from the Coroner, council would give these due consideration."

There had been very few complaints from the public about Kenepuru Rd in recent times, Porter said.

A helmet left at the crash site.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

A helmet left at the crash site.

Kenepuru Rd was unsealed until the early 1980s.

Continuously over the past 35 years it had been transformed from a narrow gravel road to a sealed two-lane road, Porter said.

"Traffic speeds typically average between 30 and 40 kmh. Provided vehicles travel at safe speeds, we anticipate few problems," he said.

A stock truck passes through on Kenepuru Rd.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

A stock truck passes through on Kenepuru Rd.

Drivers using any of the Marlborough Sounds roads needed to drive with extreme care and expect to meet an oncoming vehicle around every corner, Porter said.

 - The Marlborough Express

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