Brake failure fatal for truck driver, inquest finds

FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 10:54 30/08/2014

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The death of a Waikato truck driver could have been avoided if he had applied his parking brake, an inquest has revealed.

Gavin Wayne Stewart, 47, of Morrinsville, was killed at Matatoki Quarry, near Kopu, on February 3, 2014, when he was crushed by his truck.

At an inquest into his death, senior constable Jeremy Newell told the court that Stewart, who had been truck driving for 20 years, had driven to the quarry to use the weighbridge.

Stewart had parked his truck a few metres from the weighbridge and hopped out to speak to the operator Frank Berendsen.

Berendsen noticed that Stewart's truck had started to roll towards them, and told Stewart who then went to the truck and slipped while climbing into the cab and was crushed.

"Mr Berendsen has heard the scream then turned to see Mr Stewart be pulled down by the truck's front wheel.

"Mr Stewart appeared to be caught between the truck wheel and . . . [the] concrete weighbridge siding, he was being pushed along the ground as the wheel passed over him."

Berendsen then raced over, managed to get in the cab and bring the truck to a halt.

Police investigations found that the truck was left idling in neutral, and the park brake not applied when Stewart spoke to the weighbridge operator.

Berendsen, who also gave evidence at the hearing, described the moments before Stewart died.

"I hopped down to where he was and saw how bad he was . . . and I rang 111 and stayed with him.

He was talking to me when I got to him but he slipped away pretty quickly into unconsciousness."

Coroner Gordon Matenga, who presided over the inquest, said tests of the braking system showed that they were working.

"It [is] apparent that when Mr Stewart pulled up to the weighbridge he did not apply the park brake, tests of the braking system show that the park brake was operational and had it been engaged the truck would not have moved forward."

Matenga said after hearing all the evidence he considered Stewart's death "accidental".

He ruled that Stewart died as a result of hypovolemic shock due to severe crushing."

Stewart, known as Zeb in his home town of Morrinsville, will be remembered annually with the Gavin "Zeb" Stewart Memorial Trophy.

The trophy will be presented annually to the most immaculate looking truck.

florence.kerr@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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