The Toyota Hilux in which Tayne Bowes drowned. Photo /
Distraught, his clothing in tatters, the father of a
9-year-old boy who drowned when their car rolled into a dredge
pond told those who came to his aid "my babies, I couldn't get
About 11 grieving family members held a tearful vigil at the
Greymouth District Court this morning as coroner Richard
McElrea completed the inquest into the death of Tayne Bowes,
who died on August 12, 2012, when the vehicle he was in with
his father Mark and sister Keira flipped over into a
waist-high pool at a mine site near Ruatapu, 7km from
Police officers rescued Keira from the submerged vehicle
after she had been trapped in the water for two hours. Mr
Bowes freed himself from the vehicle and ran for help.
Distraught, wet and in tattered clothing, he was heard to say
"my babies, I couldn't get them out ... I tried to stop it,
it just kept going''.
Nearby residents, police and Hokitika Volunteer Fire Brigade
officers who arrived at the scene initially thought both
children had drowned, but Senior Sergeant Allyson Ealam and
Sergeant Russell Glue found Keira alive in the back seat.
Mrs Ealam told the court there was no hope of rescuing Tayne,
as he was completely submerged. The listed cause of death was
Mr Bowes told police he had two beers prior to the accident,
while installing a play hut for his daughter.
His wife Katrina was unaware of any health problems at the
time, but Mr Bowes had mentioned "pins and needles'' in his
hands for several days prior. He was later diagnosed with a
brain tumour in his right temporal lobe.
Medical professionals said this could have affected his
ability to judge space and distance.
A breath test some hours after the accident revealed Mr Bowes
had a breath-alcohol level of 250 micrograms per litre of
breath, which would have put him at 360 to 479mg at the time
of the accident. The legal adult limit is 400mg.
Police decided that alcohol was not a major cause in the
Mr Bowes was in an extreme emotional state after the accident
and had difficulty remembering what happened.
He told police he had been going slow down the track and
thought he had his foot on the brake when the truck began to
slide down the steep slope into the pond. He said he thought
he had done everything he could to stop it.
After the car was submerged, he nearly gave up but managed to
He said he did not know how to get to his children and feared
he had hurt Tayne as he struggled to escape.
Mrs Ealam said there were no suspicious circumstances
surrounding the accident.
She fought back tears as she spoke of finding Keira alive and
pulling her from the car.
The coroner commended her and Mr Glue for their excellent
work in searching for the children.
"It is clear they performed to the highest standards,'' Mr
The children's grandfather, Murray Bowes, said the accident
scene was treated as a recovery rather than a rescue, and it
was more than two hours before Keira was rescued.
Mrs Ealam said they had to consider their own safety and "we
acted as quickly as we possibly could''.
Mr Glue said that in hindsight, he agreed with Mr Bowes that
he should have got into the water sooner: "But the result
would unfortunately have been the same for Tayne.''
Mr McElrea said police had responded properly at the scene
and Mr Glue was being too hard on himself.
The inquest is proceeding.
- Greymouth Star