Excess sealing chip played a part in fatal crash

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2013
Tiana Law
TIANA LAW: Killed during a drifting session in a 4WD.

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A heartbroken grandmother says roading contractors should be held accountable for their part in the death of her 16-year-old granddaughter.

Tiana Law was the front-seat passenger in a Toyota Hilux Surf full of six teenagers, which spun and rolled going around a corner in Maungakotukutuku Rd near Paraparaumu on March 10, 2010. Law was flung from the vehicle and died instantly.

Wellington regional coroner Ian Smith's findings on her death say dangerous driving was the main cause, but the situation was exacerbated by the failure of contractors to remove excess sealing chip from the road.

The five other teenagers in the vehicle, aged 15 to 19, were hurt, one seriously. None of them, including the 16-year-old driver, had a full licence. The 16-year-old was disqualified from driving for 24 months.

Law's grandmother, Oriwa Law, said the main issue in the crash was driving at speed, but the excess chip made it worse.

"The contractors should be made accountable for part [of the] blame and not let off scot-free. Of course they [say they] will not be doing it again, but how do we know that is going to happen?"

The coroner found Tiana Law died as a result of sustaining severe head injuries from the crash.

His report said the driver was going around the corner with the intention of "drifting", and sped up halfway around so the vehicle would slide.

"But an excess quantity of chips had been laid down by the contractor, and not swept away as per contract . . . because of the road surface, the vehicle began to rotate and then rolled.

"The situation the driver faced was exacerbated by the failure to remove the excess sealing chip from the road's surface."

Warning signs on the road telling motorists it had been resealed had been taken away. "Given the amount of loose chip still on this road, this was a dangerous procedure as the road was once again subject to the open road speed limit."

Kapiti Coast District Council maintains the road and had awarded the contract for the work to Downer EDI Works. Downer subcontracted to J&J Walters, of Marton, to complete it.

Smith said that, although there was conflicting evidence on the quantity of chip on the road, he was satisfied it "well exceeded the amount specified in the contract".

Council infrastructure group manager Sean Mallon told the court the contractor was responsible for ensuring traffic control was carried out according to specifications, and for surface chip being removed.

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A Downer spokesman said it did not want to comment, and directed inquiries to the council.

- Fairfax Media

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