Coroner Richard McElrea
Just over two hours before a Chinese national killed two
motorcyclists, a motorist reported her "erratic'' driving
behaviour to police via a *555 call.
Designated Coroner Richard McElrea, of Christchurch, resumed
the inquest into the deaths of Grant John Roberts (43), of
Timaru, and Dennis Michael Pederson (54), of Tauranga in the
Queenstown District Court yesterday.
He found Mr Roberts died as a result of cervical spine and
brain injuries, while Mr Pederson died from a transection of
the aorta, both on November 26, 2012, after their motorcycles
collided with Kejia Zheng's rental car on State Highway 8,
about 20km north of Tarras.
Forensic Crash Analyst Senior Constable Alastair Crosland, of
Alexandra, said Zheng had "negligible independent driving
experience'' prior to the incident and "none at all'' in the
preceding 10 months.
Zheng obtained her Chinese driver's licence in December 2011
and within six weeks had moved to Australia to study, where
she gained no driving experience.
On November 24 Zheng flew from Sydney to Christchurch, the
next day she hired a rental car with her Chinese licence and
drove to Tekapo for the night.
Zheng was travelling south from Tekapo on November 26, was
seen driving erratically by Cheryl van Opzeeland, who 20
minutes later called police.
New Zealand Police Southern Communications Centre manager
Inspector Kieren Kortegast told Mr McElrea Ms van Opzeeland
called at 11.57am describing Zheng's driving behaviour.
"The complainant informed the call taker that the vehicle was
being driven in an erratic manner, she was using all of her
side of the road, she was over the centre line and then back
over the white line on the left of the road, passing on
double yellow lines and was seen to be slowing down and then
Ms van Opzeeland informed police she had pulled over near
Insp Kortegast said despite the dispatcher initially being
unable to contact the Twizel Constable, he was still on route
to the area four minutes and 14 seconds after the incident
was reported - faster than the required time for a "Priority
However, the office was unable to locate Zheng's vehicle,
likely because she had diverted from the highway at some
Snr Const Crosland said a second motorist later told police
she had to take evasive action south of Lake Pukaki after
Zheng pulled out in front of her, however, that incident was
not reported at the time.
Mr Roberts and Mr Pederson were part of a group of
motorcyclists who had attended the Burt Munro event in
The crash occurred after Zheng lost control of the vehicle
and the men were unable to take evasive action.
A pillion passenger was seriously injured and another
motorcylist received minor injuries.
Snr Const Crosland said while the men's close following
distance affected the outcome, it was not the cause.
Zheng told police in a statement "the car just crashed into
She said the road was "not very straight'' and she found her
vehicle on the left-side of the road so she "moved it to the
Snr Const Crossland said it was probable, given Chinese
driver regulations, Zheng had never operated a right-hand
drive car, had never driven before on the left side of the
road and had not travelled in excess of 40kmh - the speed
limit on a Chinese highway.
She was later convicted in the Alexandra District Court after
admitting two charges of careless driving causing death and
two of careless driving causing injury, disqualified from
driving for two years and ordered to pay $10,000 in
Mr McElrea did not issue any formal findings or make any
recommendations yesterday, but said at the outset of the
hearing he would be examining the regulatory background
relating to the issue of driver's licences to overseas people
in New Zealand.
"I will be inviting further input from the police, through
the National Police headquarters, on possible legislation
changes that may assist the police in dealing with situations
such as have been highlighted by this particular