Woman not to blame for depressed friend's death

A woman who felt guilty about asking a depressed friend to leave her house late at night so she could get some sleep has been told by a coroner she is not to blame for him fatally crashing his car on the way home.

Damien Joseph Ryan, 39, was not wearing a seatbelt and was more than three times the legal drink drive limit when he died in a crash just down the road from his Canterbury home on October 24, 2013.

The painter and panel beater was depressed over not getting to see his two children who live in Australia and was "drowning himself in booze", a coroner was told.

On the night he died, he had been drinking at his local pub in West Melton, 25km west of Christchurch.

Coroner Tim Scott was told by bar staff that they would often take the keys from Mr Ryan if he had drunk too much and give him a lift home.

But that night, Mr Ryan didn't appear intoxicated and wasn't acting out of character.

After leaving the pub, he knocked on the door of a friend, Wyn McAlpine at about 10.30pm.

She woke up to let him after he said that he "wanted to talk".

Ms McAlpine made him some coffee, but the cup got knocked over.

After 30 - 60 minutes, she told Mr Ryan that she needed to get some sleep and that he needed to go home.

On the way home, Mr Ryan, holder of a restricted licence, crashed on an easy left bend, vaulted a water race, rolled, hit some trees, and tossed him out the rear window.

He was found dead at the scene.

His blood was found to contain 286 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - the legal limit at the time was 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

A post-mortem found that the cause of death was high energy impact injuries to his head, face, chest, and limbs.

Coroner Scott said there were two factors that contributed to his death - tired after working all day, and being significantly effected by alcohol.

Bar staff had acted responsibility and should not be blamed for his death, the coroner ruled.

"Damien should not have driven that night. He should have known better," he said.

The coroner heard that Ms McAlpine blamed herself for what happened and felt "very guilty".

But Coroner Scott stressed it was not her fault.

"I do not blame her for asking him to leave and then going back to bed. Had she realised just how much he had had to drink she would not have done so but she is not responsible for that."

- Kurt Bayer of NZME. News Service

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