Tourist caused fatal crash - inquest

A bereaved son has pleaded with a coroner to make 'keep left' stickers and other safety warnings mandatory after his Dunedin-based father and a tourist were killed by a campervan driven on the wrong side of the road.

The van had been travelling in the oncoming lane for more than 1km before smashing into Miles Morris's car near Lake Moeraki, between Bruce Bay and Haast.

"My father paid for this preventable accident with his life, and I continue to pay for it," Mr Morris told an inquest yesterday via e-mail.

He was unable to attend the inquest due to surgery for injuries he suffered in the December 28, 2011 crash.

His father, David Morris, 82, of Dunedin, was killed on a stretch of road he had driven for years as a dairy truck driver.

"He knew the road like the back of his hand, unlike the tourist who hit us," Miles Morris said.

Detective Malcolm Howie told coroner Richard McElrea that David Morris, and European tourist Kerstin Fromert, 51, died on State Highway 6 when tourist Mathias Mandlmeier drove his Wicked campervan on the wrong side of the road and collided with Miles Morris's car on a bend.

The weather was fine and the road dry at the time.

"I distinctly remember dad saying 'what have we got here?"' Mr Morris Junior said.

Both vehicles swerved to avoid a collision but Mandlmeier, used to driving on the right, swerved back into Mr Morris's path. Mandlmeier's partner, Kerstin Fromert, and David Morris, died from high energy impact injuries.

Mandlmeier was later convicted of two charges of careless driving causing death and one charge of causing injury.

Wicked Campers Auckland depot manager Jiten Patel said clients were encouraged to take pamphlets about New Zealand road rules, but they could not be forced to do so. Some vehicles had 'keep left' stickers, but they came off over time.

Police senior crash inspector Simon Burbury said both vehicles were travelling at a reasonable speed and had showed a high degree of alertness in their reactions.

Mandlmeier appeared to have driven for more than 1km on the wrong side of the road before the collision, having adopted the wrong side after pulling away from a layby near Lake Moeraki.

Mr Burbury recommended that rental companies and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) improve and regulate vehicle signs and road markings to avoid such accidents.

Wicked Campers founder John Webb said his company was not a member of the Rental Vehicle Association.

"Until yesterday I'd never heard of it," he told the hearing.

The van involved in the fatality was an old model and did not have airbags.

Since the accident, Wicked Campers had contacted the NZTA to obtain more 'keep left' stickers, which it hoped to put in all vehicles currently being used.

"I didn't know it was such a big issue," Mr Webb said.

Mr Burbury could not say if the accident would have been survivable if more modern safety features were in place but he recommended the use of these features.

He also suggested NZTA place more direction arrows on the roads on both sides of tourist attractions to remind drivers of the road rules.

NZTA highway manager Colin Knaggs said more lane direction arrows had been added to the highway near the crash site.

Transport officers manager Anthony McNeill said NZTA had no power to enforce the distribution of safety pamphlets, use of stickers or membership of the Rental Vehicle Association.

 

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