Man's death on roadside ruled accidental

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014

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A coroner has found a Matangi driver whose vehicle fatally hit a Hastings man could "possibly" have avoided the crash had he been driving with his lights on full beam.

William Gregory Hoskins, 26, was left injured and bleeding on the side of State Highway 1B, at the intersection with Bellevue Rd, after attending his cousin's wedding nearby on January 15, 2012.

He died soon after from his injuries, which Coroner Garry Evans confirmed in his findings released yesterday were from being accidentally struck by a motor vehicle.

David Mascelle, the husband of Hamilton-based community magistrate Ngaire Mascelle, was initially charged with careless driving causing death but that charge was withdrawn by police.

Coroner Evans found Mascelle's driving that morning not to be that of a "reasonable and prudent driver" as he was not driving with his lights on full beam. But Mr Mascelle, through his lawyer Mike Talbot, disputed that finding, the coroner reported.

Coroner Evans also ruled against Mrs Mascelle's evidence that her cup of tea contributed "to the bit of misting" of the windscreen, affecting visibility.

"The evidence shows that the tea carried by Mrs Mascelle had been made by her husband at 4am. It would have been cold half an hour later."

The findings also show that Mrs Mascelle has accepted the incident was an "accident" after giving evidence at the inquest that she "didn't consider it an accident at that point in time".

The coroner said he was also disappointed with evidence provided by the officer charged with investigating the crash scene, former Constable Rebecca Dearing. He said she was only a junior member of the Waikato Serious Crash Unit at the time and came ill prepared for the inquest, having not read various reports and statements, including her own crash report.

Coroner Evans said it was "surprising" her report was signed off by then Waikato road policing manager Leo Tooman.

However, Philip Crayton, counsel for police at the inquest, said the report had only been completed to its initial phase and as criminal charges were withdrawn "it is fair to say that the investigation file was not finalised to the degree" expected.

Coroner Evans stated that Mr Crayton had assured him that NZ Police had since reviewed that and ensured files would be completed to the "highest standard" whether a criminal prosecution was to follow or not.

Mr Talbot, on behalf of Mr Mascelle, stated to the coroner that his client "does not accept that his ‘accidental striking of Mr Hoskins was the only cause of Mr Hoskins' injuries'," and that it was possible more than one vehicle was involved.

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However, the Coroner did not agree, finding that "in totality", including forensic evidence of blue paint on Mr Hoskins' clothing. "There is no evidence whatsoever that would show or point to the possibility that Mr Hoskins was run over twice," he said.

Coroner Evans said the court was unable to rule how Mr Hoskins came to be lying on the road.

He made four recommendations to the New Zealand Transport Authority including that consideration be given to more detailed regulations around efficiency of headlights, the Warrant of Fitness level of headlight beam output be reviewed, public education around driving with dipped headlights in the dark and a "requirement or at least guide" implemented to cover that.

But the findings only angered Delwyn Hanna, Mr Hoskins' mother, as she claimed they appeared to solidify the family's original misgivings about the police investigation. "We were told at a meeting with police on 13 July, 2012 at a meeting in Napier with the [police] that the charges were dropped due to the lighting reports being done, so there were quite a few people totally blown out of the water by [the findings] that they weren't included in the first place."

As for the coroner's recommendations, Ms Hanna labelled them "ridiculous".

"What normal person drives out in the country in the dark with their lights on dip, anyway? It's ridiculous."

She was also hurt and horrified by a comment from Mrs Mascelle in the findings that had there been blood on their car or if "the object" they had hit had been a dog they would have stopped.

- Waikato Times

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