Driver 'not competent'

The crash scene where two motorcyclists died on the Lindis Pass in November 2012. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
The crash scene where two motorcyclists died on the Lindis Pass in November 2012. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
About two hours before a Chinese woman 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'' just before the crash 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, 2012, Zheng flew from Sydney to Christchurch; the next day she hired a rental car with her Chinese licence and drove to Lake Tekapo for the night.

As she was travelling south from Lake Tekapo on November 26, she was observed driving erratically by Cheryl van Opzeeland, who called police.

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 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 speeding up.''

Ms van Opzeeland told police Zheng pulled over near Lake Pukaki.

Insp Kortegast said the Twizel constable was on the way to the area four minutes, 14 seconds after the incident was reported but could not find Zheng's vehicle, probably because she had diverted from the highway.

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.

Mr Roberts and Mr Pederson were part of a group of motorcyclists attending the Burt Munro Challenge event in Invercargill.

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 motorcyclist received minor injuries.

''Kejia Zheng was not a competent driver in these circumstances,'' Snr Const Crosland said.

Zheng told police in a statement ''the car just crashed into them''. 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 middle''.

She was 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 emotional-harm payments.

Mr McElrea did not issue any formal findings or make any recommendations yesterday, but said he would examine the regulatory background relating to driver's licences issued 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 case.''