The scene of the crash on State Highway 2, near the
townships of Raupunga and Mohaka. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
Four farmhands who died in a horrific early morning crash
were not wearing seatbelts and three were thrown from the
"unsafe" vehicle when its roof was torn off, a coroner has
The men - Hawke's Bay farmhands Lou Wesley, 47, Jack Huata,
64, James Raupita, 42, and Paul Parata, 48 - were found
covered in frost in a paddock off Waikare Rd at Putorino on
the morning of June 3.
The had spent the night before drinking their way through at
least two boxes of beers at a friend's place before heading
home about midnight.
As the only passenger not thrown from the vehicle was in the
back, police had to rely on injury analysis to establish who
Coroner Christopher Devonport, in findings published today,
ruled Mr Huata was the driver, given he was the only person
to have suffered chest injuries consistent with damage to the
Mr Huata had the lowest blood-alcohol level of the four men
but it was still in excess of the legal limit.
Mr Huata's blood alcohol level was 114 milligrams of alcohol
per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit for an adult
Tests also indicated he had possibly been using cannabis.
The four men were driving Mr Wesley's Mitsubishi Pajero
towards Moeangiangi sheep station when it crashed on the
unlit gravel road.
The vehicle was calculated to be travelling about 84km/h when
it slid off a straight section of the road and rolled onto
its left side as the front wheel dropped into a 50cm-deep
The Pajero's roof was ripped off as the vehicle crashed into
a large tree and spun 180 degrees before it came to rest on
Three of the men were flung from the vehicle, which only had
seat belts for the driver and front-seat passenger.
There were no seats in the back and subsequently no
Senior Constable Cory Ubels, investigating the crash, said
the driver "was not likely to have been applying the brakes
at the time of the crash".
The Mitsubishi had an expired warrant of fitness and faults
that may have contributed to the crash, the coroner found.
There was excessive play in the steering box, the front tyres
were below legal tread depth and the right-hand ball joint
Mr Ubels said the vehicle was "likely to have been in an
unsafe condition immediately prior to the crash".
Most significant was the steering box issues, which would
have made it "very difficult to control the vehicle", Mr
Alcohol, speed and the lack of seatbelts were also
responsible for another horrific crash in rural Hawkes Bay in
January in which five members of a shearing gang were killed.
The five farmworkers were "wasted" when their car smashed
into a truck at about 150km/h on State Highway 2 near
Raupunga, a coroner was told.
- Kieran Campbell of APNZ