The driver of a modified van full of partygoers that crashed, killing his friend, was texting when we was driving, a coroner has found.
In 2010, 17-year-old Jesse Howe died as a result of serious injuries after being thrown out of the vehicle, along with 11 other people, as they were driving back from Taupo to Rotorua after a party at 2.30am one morning.
Several important issues contributed to the crash, Coroner Wallace Bain has found.
Evidence suggested inexperienced driver Aaron Gourlay, then 17, was texting while driving, as well as tired.
He also failed to drive to the weather conditions, Bain said.
The van had mechanical defects, and there were also loose items inside the vehicle. The passengers were not wearing seat belts.
Any one of the contributing conditions on their own could have caused Howe's death, but the coroner pointed specifically to texting while driving.
Police said it was likely Gourlay was texting at the time of the accident, and the text conversations had been going for 13 minutes leading up to the accident.
Bain recommended an increase in education for youth and the general public about the dangers of driving while distracted.
Gourlay had been chosen as the sober driver for his friends at a Taupo party.
Reluctant to drive back because he was tired, he agreed to do so as his friends wanted to go home, Judge Phillip Cooper said during Gourlay's trial in 2011.
About 2.15am, he crashed into a bank, rolling the van.
Nine people were seriously injured, and Gourlay suffered a punctured lung.
Witnesses described the crash as a war zone, with teenagers scattered on the road.
Eight months after the crash that killed Howe, and while he was still banned from driving, Gourlay crashed into a fence, seriously injuring passenger Jeremy Edward.
On bail and forbidden to drive, he went out and spent $20,000 on a V8 ute.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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