Fiery Dunedin fatal crash 'entirely avoidable'

A Dunedin learner driver was five times the legal alcohol limit when he failed to negotiate a bend and crashed into a truck, killing himself and his friend, a coroner’s report has revealed.

William Matthew Joseph Quin, 20, and Josiah Mani, 24, were killed after a crash on King Edward St, Dunedin on July 4, 2020.

Coroner Mary-Anne Borrowdale said the men’s deaths were “entirely avoidable”, with Mani “extremely intoxicated” and crossing the centreline more than once into the path of oncoming traffic.

Mani, who is from Papua New Guinea, lived in Dunedin and had worked at Mainland Poultry in Palmerston for three years.

Firefighters at the scene of the crash. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Firefighters at the scene of the crash. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
He met Kevin Quin, when he started working there about six months before the crash, and the unrelated William Quin, who was studying at university and began working part-time at Mainland three months before the crash.

July 3, 2020, was William Quin’s last day working at Mainland before returning to university.

The three friends finished work at about 3pm, and travelled separately back to Dunedin. They agreed Mani would pick them up and they would go out drinking to celebrate William Quin’s last day.

“Let’s get on the piss tonight?”, Mani wrote to Kevin Quin. He added he was going to take William Quin “out tonight for a piss since his last day at farm lol”.

About 6.30pm Mani’s partner told him he had received a letter from Immigration New Zealand, indicating it was taking steps to arrange his removal from the country. Mani’s partner said he was smiling, but believed he would have been “stressed”.

About 10 minutes later Mani picked up Kevin Quin and they drove to pick up William Quin.

They then went to a pub. About 11.30pm another workmate invited Mani to have drinks at his place in South Dunedin. Mani drove the group there, with Kevin Quin later saying they all smoked cannabis and drank alcohol until at least 1.30am.

Kevin Quin said he was “pretty pissed”, by the time they left, adding the other two men were “drinking lots and were also drunk”.

Mani drove back into town, and the group continued drinking at a nightclub near the Octagon until it closed.

Kevin Quin then got into the back of Mani’s car, feeling like he was “blacking out,” the report said.

Mani was driving and William Quin sat in the front passenger seat. Kevin Quin fell asleep in the car and had no memory of the drive or how fast they were travelling. It was not until the car crashed and he hit his head that he woke up.

About 3.30am a rubbish truck was travelling north on King Edward St at about 40km/h. The truck driver told police that as he approached the right-hand bend he saw a car coming “really fast” around the corner, crossing into his lane.

Josiah Mani was one of two men killed in the crash.
Josiah Mani was one of two men killed in the crash.
"It was very clear that he was taking the corner too quickly,” he said. The truck driver hit his brakes and tried to avoid the car by moving to his left.

He said his truck was “more or less stationary” when it was struck on the front right corner. The truck driver called emergency services and went to the car. He saw Kevin Quin get out of the left rear door.

Josiah Mani was one of two men killed when the car they were in caught fire in a crash. Photo / Otago Rugby League Facebook page

The car’s engine was still running, and he asked Kevin Quin to turn it off, however, he was unable to do so.

While the truck driver was on the phone to emergency services he spotted flames under the car’s bonnet. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and began to put the flames out. However, the flames flared up and spread into the cabin of the car. The truck driver said it was “only a matter of seconds” before the car was engulfed in flames.

Firefighters put out the fire. William Quin and Mani were dead. Kevin Quin suffered a broken nose, fractured vertebrae, lacerations, cuts and bruises.

Mani had a blood alcohol level of 254 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal blood alcohol limit in New Zealand for drivers 20 years or over is 50mg per 100ml.

The police serious crash unit (SCU) investigation found there was nothing the truck driver could have done to avoid the collision.

No CCTV footage of the crash was available. However, the car was spotted on Princes St, minutes before the crash travelling south towards King Edward St. The footage showed Mani’s car crossing an intersection with both passenger-side wheels crossing the centreline.

The SCU said it was likely Mani was wearing a seatbelt, but William Quin was unlikely to have been wearing his.

Borrowdale said the deaths “like so many similar cases that come before coroners”, were mainly the result of a combination of “excessive alcohol consumption and driving”.

“The motor vehicle collision that claimed Josiah and Williams’ lives, and badly injured their friend, was awful to behold, with Josiah’s car quickly becoming an inferno from which rescue was impossible.

“Their deaths were entirely avoidable. Josiah was extremely intoxicated while driving that evening, and on more than one occasion crossed the centreline and into the path of oncoming traffic.

“It is simply unsafe to drive while intoxicated.”

Borrowdale said a wealth of information was available about drink-driving.

“I encourage all drivers – and especially young and learner drivers – to follow the alcohol awareness and driving safety advice that is made available by the Ministry of Transport, Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency, and other entities, and abstain from driving while affected by alcohol.”

She extended her condolences to both men’s families.