A woman who had attended the second anniversary memorial for
the sinking of the Easy Rider died when the caravan she lived
in caught fire later that night, a coroner says.
Teresa Anne Thompson, 45, attended the memorial at Bluff on
March 15 with family and friends and returned to her caravan
on an Invercargill property about 3am the following day, a
report by Coroner Christopher Devonport said.
Eight people died in the Easy Rider tragedy when the vessel
was swamped by a huge wave just after midnight on March 15,
2012 while taking muttonbirders and crew members to the Titi
Islands, near Stewart Island.
Cora Maere, who lived in the house next to Ms Thompson's
caravan, told the coroner that on the night of the fire Ms
Thompson and the group had had a fun time.
"We were all really happy, we were cracking up.
"Everything was awesome. We had an awesome night."
Just before 5am on March 16, a passerby noticed the caravan
and the house were on fire and alerted the residents.
The house was evacuated of its 13 occupants safely but Ms
Thompson was found dead in the caravan, the report said.
A post-mortem examination found cannabis and a high level of
alcohol in her system.
An investigation into the blaze found that earlier that
evening, Ms Thompson had taken some burning bedding or a
cushion out of the caravan and put it on the lawn, the report
She had then returned to the caravan and fallen asleep.
Fire Service Fire Risk Management officer Paul Glanville told
Coroner Devonport there were two scenarios for how the main
fire was started, the report said.
The first was that in taking out the small burning items,
some smouldering or combustible material could have dropped
onto another flammable item on the floor and continued to
slowly burn, unnoticed by Ms Thompson.
The second scenario was that some time after discarding the
burning items and Ms Thompson returning to the caravan to
sleep, a candle may have fallen on the floor and ignited
something, Mr Glanville said.
"It appears from [Mr Glanville's] report that Ms Thompson was
aware of an initial fire in the caravan and that she removed
burning material from the caravan onto the lawn and returned
to the caravan where the smell of smoke would not have been
unexpected," Coroner Devonport said.
"I consider that the combined effects of alcohol and cannabis
likely contributed to a sedative effect and, not being
alerted by any smoke alarm, resulted in Ms Thompson dying
from smoke inhalation."
- Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ