CCTV probe after checkpoint death

ANGELA CUMING
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2012

Waikato booze bus death press conference

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Police will investigate installing CCTV cameras in booze buses after the death of a Hamilton woman at an alcohol checkpoint on Saturday night.

Elizabeth Jill Gilbertson, 56, was unable to be revived after collapsing during the breath-screening process. She died inside the bus about 10.30pm, some 15 minutes after being pulled over by police in a routine stop.

Investigations are still underway into investigating the the circumstances surrounding Ms Gilbertson's death, but preliminary post-mortem findings suggest she died from natural causes.

The matter is now under investigation by the Coroner, Police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Last night Police Association president Greg O'Connor told Waikato Times the addition of CCTV cameras in booze buses "might not be a bad idea."

"There are CCTV cameras in watch-houses and all over police stations and I guess it would be a logical extension," he said.

However he said the costs involved with such a move would need to be carefully considered.

"You have got to be careful you are not introducing another costly compliance system that then becomes a very expensive millstone around everyone's neck."

District crime manager Detective Inspector Chris Page confirmed there were no CCTV cameras inside the mobile unit.

"And that is one of the things we will look at as we look towards what lessons we might learn from these occasions, if there is something that will be helpful for us in the future should this occur ever again."

Ms Gilbertson was the sole occupant of her Nissan car when she was stopped on Cambridge Road, Hillcrest.

An initial breath screening test indicated the presence of alcohol.

What, if any, alcohol Ms Gilbertson had consumed would become apparent in toxicology tests which could be several days, or weeks, away, Mr Page said.

Unable to complete a breath screening test, Ms Gilbertson was taken to the booze bus, described by Mr Page as a "quite confined space".

Ms Gilbertson was co-operative with the officers the entire time, he said.

Once inside the booze bus, Ms Gilbertson was required by police to undergo an evidential breath test – a breath test for a machine that determines if a person is legally under or over the limit.

"She failed a couple of attempts to complete an evidential breath test," Mr Page said.

Ms Gilbertson then collapsed and fell from her chair to the floor, dying in the arms of police officers.

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She sustained a laceration to her head but police say a preliminary pathologist's finding has ruled it as superficial.

Police have not said whether or not Ms Gilbertson was wearing a medical bracelet or had complained of shortness of breath before her collapse.

Any underlying medical condition the woman may have had will form part of the investigation.

"She may or may not have had an underlying medical condition that prevented her from completing those tests."

Further forensic testing would now be carried out, he said.

"It remains the domain of the coroner to determine the exact cause of death," he said.

Mr Page said her death was upsetting for the police officers involved and said they would be offered counselling.

The officers would not be stood down, he said.

"These guys were doing the best they could to save a woman's life, why would you punish them?" he said.

Ms Gilbertson's family are understood to be coming from overseas.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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