Deadly crash due to alcohol, fatigue

Last updated 13:00 01/09/2011

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A Murchison man who died after driving off a bank and crashing into a tree was drunk and fatigued, a coroner has found.

Hayden Craig Penman, 32, a farm worker, died on October 3 last year after his vehicle left the road on State Highway 6 near Murchison on a stretch of road past what is known as Doughboy Creek Bridge.

He died of multiple injuries from the crash.

Coroner Carla na Nagara said toxicology results found Mr Penman was driving with a blood alcohol reading of 163ml of alcohol per litre of blood; twice the adult limit of 80ml.

Mr Penman had attended a family wedding the night before the crash.

Ms na Nagara said Mr Penman had left the wedding on foot with his brother, Rodney, and after stopping to have a chat, Rodney said he was going to sleep at a cousin's house.

They did not discuss where Mr Penman would spend the night or what he would do for the rest of the evening. Rodney thought his brother would eventually go back to his cousin's house where he had left his car.

That was the last anyone saw of Mr Penman. Police believe he eventually made his way back to his car and slept in it for a while, before driving off.

Senior Constable Simon Burberry of the Tasman District Crash Investigation Unit said the crash happened south of Doughboy Creek Bridge, prior to a left hand curve with a speed advisory of 75kmh.

Nothing was found on the road that could have caused Mr Penman to lose control, and it was unlikely he had his headlights on at the time of the crash.

Mr Penman was not wearing a seatbelt, but the damage to the vehicle meant a seatbelt would not have saved him.

Mr Burberry said it was very likely Mr Penman was not aware of the impending crash, despite having covered 75 metres from first deviating across the centre line before leaving the road.

Mr Penman did not brake or correct his steering, suggesting he was incapacitated.

Given the clear layout of the curve and the driving conditions at the time it was unlikely an alert driver would have failed to show some kind of reaction, he said.

There were no injuries to Mr Penman's hands, despite the collapse of the dashboard, suggesting he did not have a strong grip on the steering wheel.

Ms na Nagara said after considering all the evidence she was satisfied Mr Penman had succumbed to fatigue and/or intoxication and had inadvertently driven his vehicle off the road and into the tree.

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