Roadworker killed on job worried about speeding trucks

Damage to State Highway 23 with road cones around places where it was cracked and slumped in...
Damage to State Highway 23 with road cones around places where it was cracked and slumped in February 2023 (file picture). Photo: Twitter / Waka Kotahi
The daughter of a roadworker killed by a truck says he'd previously spoken about his fear of being hit due to the number of trucks that sped through work sites.

Her father Brian Barnes was fatally struck by a truck being driven by 40-year-old Michael Stacy on State Highway 23 south of Whatawhata on 12 February last year.

An investigation revealed Stacy was speeding and the service brakes on his truck, which was transporting dirt from a nearby slip, were only working at 33 percent capacity. The parking brake was only working at 15 percent capacity.

Barnes' grieving family were in the Hamilton District Court on Tuesday for Stacy's sentencing on a charge of careless driving causing death.

His second oldest daughter, Ann Marie, 38, told Judge Glen Marshall that never in her life would she imagine her father would die from moving road cones.

"It didn't make sense at all because he wasn't meant to get out of his vehicle. What was he doing getting out of the ute to move cones?

"You know, Dad always had a fear that one day he would get hit by a truck because of the amount of trucks he witnessed racing through roadworks, and not slowing down while he was in a vehicle was absolutely crazy.

"A fear which became a reality."

Younger sister, Gaylene Maruzza, said her world was completely shattered when she was told the words, "Dad's gone".

"Just like that. Without warning."

Making it even harder to bear was the fact the 58-year-old had just returned to work just under a year after having open-heart surgery - something doctors never expected him to recover from.

'Unable to stop'

State Highway 23 was closed for significant periods last summer due to Cyclone Gabrielle creating havoc on various parts of the road.

On the morning of 12 February, Stacy was driving a McGowan Transport truck that was helping repair a slip on the SH23 deviation.

The road was closed to the general public.

He picked up his Kenworth truck from the McGowan yard and headed to SH23 for a toolbox meeting.

He drove to the slip site and filled his truck with a load of fill before heading to the dump site.

After rounding a corner he came to a traffic control checkpoint at the intersection of SH23 and Cogswell Road.

Working at the checkpoint was Barnes who had a work ute parked in the right-hand lane, while cones were in the left-hand lane.

All trucks going through the site were required to come to a full stop to allow the worker to move the road cones and subject to a 30km/h speed limit.

Stacy approached the site travelling 58km/h and was unable to stop and crashed into Barnes who was moving the cones. He died at the scene.

Following a mechanical inspection, multiple issues relating to the braking system were found including the brakes not operating effectively, and mechanical joints that were visibly worn.

The brakes were found to be a "contributory factor" in the crash.

'Enormous remorse'

Stacy's lawyer Glen Prentice told Judge Marshall his client felt an "enormous amount of remorse" which would have been evident at the restorative justice conference and in court.

"He carries the weight of knowing that his actions caused the loss of a loved father and grandfather and husband.

"He also appreciates that no sentence will hold him accountable for that extraordinary loss."

Prentice described it as an "unusual case" given the aspect of brake failure yet he had decided to plead guilty to the charge due to the speeding aspect.

"This is not a situation just simply of a truck driver driving too fast and being careless in wet conditions," he said.

He noted there was "reasonably strong evidence" to suggest Stacy's truck was travelling at 35km/h just prior to the checkpoint, which was not too dissimilar to a truck travelling immediately before it at 28km/h.

That truck was able to safely stop.

"The brakes, in my submission, must have been a significant factor in this crash."

He urged the judge not to issue an electronically-monitored sentence so that Stacy could continue to work.

"It's what he knows."

Judge Marshall acknowledged the whānau's "devastating loss" and agreed to stop short of an electronically-monitored sentence.

As well as sentencing him to 250 hours' community work, nine months' supervision, $5000 emotional harm reparation, and disqualifying him from driving for 12 months, Stacy was ordered to complete the Right Track Programme.

Judge Marshall said it was a tough yet "life-changing" programme that he would find not only valuable but provide some first-hand insight for other attendees.

By Belinda Feek, Open Justice reporter