Girl survived 80 minutes trapped in car
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Keira Bowes lay trapped in a submerged vehicle for about 80 minutes as police officers took photographs and planned a recovery effort not realising she was alive, a Coroner's Court has heard.
The inquest into the death of Keira's older brother Tayne Bowes, 9, began before Coroner Richard McElrea in the Greymouth District Court this morning.
Tayne drowned on August 12 last year when the Toyota Hilux his father Mark Bowes was driving toppled into a pond in a mining area 7 kilometres inland from Hokitika.
It landed upside down and although Tayne drowned, his eight-year-old sister Keira, was found alive about two hours later when police, up to their shoulders in water, broke the rear window of the vehicle.
Evidence showed Tayne's father was unable to rescue the children and went for help. Witnesses said he was bleeding, confused and distressed when he reached a nearby house to sound the alarm.
Bowes told a person at the house: "We have got to get my babies. I could not get them out, I don't know how I got out.''
He was in ensuing weeks diagnosed with a brain tumour which needed immediate removal.
Senior Sergeant Allyson Ealam and Sergeant Russell Glue were some of the first officers to arrive at what Ealam described as a dark, difficult and chaotic scene.
Ealam said Glue had taken photographs and they had discussed a plan of action.
After questions were raised by Tayne's family in court, Glue said he arrived about 7.10pm to find the vehicle upside down with only the lower rear protruding from the water.
He wasn't sure how much time passed before he and Ealam searched the vehicle although he was referred to the time of 8.40pm by Murray Bowe when he rescued Keira. This was confirmed by Ealam.
She had been in the water for up to two hours.
Asked by Tayne's grandfather Murray Bowes whether police could learn from the accident, he said in hindsight the vehicle should have been searched earlier and he apologised to the family.
He said he had treated the scene as a recovery site and his main concern was to secure the children's bodies to ensure they did not fall from the vehicle into the pond.
Even if police had searched earlier the outcome for Tayne would have been the same, he said.
McElrea commended police for their efforts, which he described as being of the highest standards. He told Glue he was "being unduly hard" on himself.
Other evidence showed the Toyota had brake problems and the site of the accident had hazardous road conditions.
* An earlier version of this story said the time was 90 minutes.
- The Press