A young man, killed when his car left the road and crashed
into a tree, may have been eating chips and dip at the time
of the accident, a coroner has found.
Twenty-two-year-old Benjamin Stantiall died when the ute he
was driving slid out of control and crashed into a fence on
State Highway 1 outside Seddon in Marlborough on November 7
A coroner's report released today found that Stantiall lost
control while travelling north behind two cars and a tractor.
Not realising the cars in front of him had slowed for the
tractor, Stantiall approached at pace.
To avoid a collision, he swerved to the left shoulder of the
road and travelled 25 metres along the grass verge before the
car began to spin. Heavy braking caused the car's wheels to
lock up and the car slid out of control, crashing through a
fence and hitting a tree.
When witnesses rushed to help, they found Stantiall
A post mortem examination confirmed he had suffered several
potentially fatal injuries, with a massive brain injury to
the right side of his head.
While he had not been wearing a seatbelt, Coroner Carla na
Nagara could not confirm that this had made any difference to
whether the death could have been avoided.
The post mortem examination also revealed that Stantiall had
been eating at the time of his death, and chips and dip were
found in the cab of the ute.
Senior constable Greg Taylor of the Tasman District Crash
Investigation Unit said there was no evidence of any vehicle
fault or road fault. He also concluded that speed was not a
The coroner concluded that momentary distraction had caused
"Quite possibly due to reaching for food/eating - Mr
Stantiall found himself having to make a split-second
decision to avoid collision with other vehicles," Ms na
She noted that of the three options [braking, swerving right
or swerving left] Stantiall had, he took the one that posed
the most danger to himself and the least to the other road
"Tragically he was unable to control his vehicle on the grass
verge, leading to the fatal impact with the tree.
"The case is a startling example of the devastating
consequences that can follow momentary distraction while
driving," she said.
- By Cassandra Mason of Herald Online