Tipoff aids police in solving near miss

LUCKY ESCAPE: Casey Booth, 19.
LUCKY ESCAPE: Casey Booth, 19.

The steel implement that flew off a truck and could have killed two teenagers is common on freight liners, and a tipoff by an ex-trucker is helping narrow down suspects.

The former trucker contacted Queenstown police after he identified the 90cm, 4kg angled piece of steel with tapered ends as a steel corner board, commonly used by truckers to brace the corners of pallets of brick and concrete blocks to prevent tie-down strops from fraying on the load's sharp edges.

He identified the implement from a Southland Times photo and contacted police through a call centre last week.

Police had been appealing for any information on the object from engineers who might have shaped the object for use on a building site or similar workplace.

Constable Donald Hillis yesterday said the ex-trucker's tip was invaluable, along with another public tipoff they had received.

"This latest tip, especially when taken with an eyewitness account, is really helping narrow things down," he said.

"We've got a stonemason who's been working out of Tucker Beach Rd to speak to, and from the eyewitness account, have been able to narrow matching vehicles down to six in the Lake Hayes Estate."

As the net narrowed all people of interest would be spoken to by police by tomorrow, Hillis said.

The incident happened when the piece of steel flew from a truck trailer on the Lower Shotover bridge about noon on Saturday, May 3, punching through the windscreen of Casey Booth, 19, of Cromwell and friend Katie Scott, 16, of Mossburn.

After entering near the steering wheel, the piece of steel veered up, cleared a 4cm gap over the friends' heads, and lodged in the car ceiling with enough force to crumple a support strut.

The teens did not realise the car had been struck by a piece of steel until they pulled over at the end of the bridge, saw it lodged in the roof, and realised how large it was.

"A friend of my dad's checked out the car, and the entry hole in the windscreen the other day, and he reckons just two or three degrees of angle on the steel when it hit and I would have been a goner for sure," Booth said.

The Southland Times