Crash driver suffered only one 'blackout'

The man who killed one person and injured two others when his vehicle mounted an Oamaru footpath and struck them in 2016 is adamant the only ''blackout'' he suffered was when he was behind the wheel that day.

The assertion from William Arthur Lee (90) came at a two-day coronial inquest into the death of Waikouaiti man Gerald James Cowley (67), presided over by coroner Marcus Elliott, that concluded at the Oamaru District Court yesterday.

It was requested by Mr Cowley's partner Midge Henderson, who wanted to establish why Lee was entitled to drive and to address concerns about the subsequent police investigation.

Mr Elliott said it would also determine whether recommendations would be made to the NZ Transport Agency to review its driving conditions guidelines.

Mr Cowley died, Valerie Booth (70) was seriously injured and a 13-year-old girl moderately injured when the car Lee was driving mounted the footpath outside the Lagonda Tearooms in Thames St on January 11, 2016.

After being assessed by Mr Elliott on his ability to answer questions about the incident, Lee was questioned by Ms Henderson through Mr Elliott.

Lee said he ''vaguely'' recalled a consultation with his GP, Dr Margaret Larder, on December 7, 2015, when he reported he was suffering from an increasing number of dizzy spells, when lying down.

''The only blackout I had was on that fateful day,'' he said.

He did not recall a discussion with Dr Larder about his ability to drive, a conversation the latter earlier said did not happen at that consultation.

Dr John Clark, of Auckland, provided an independent assessment of Dr Larder's conduct when she treated Lee between June 2014 and January 2016.

He said she had adhered to regulations and that Lee's dizzy spells were not considered ''significant risk factors'' under the agency's guidelines.

There was also confusion as to when Lee saw Dr Larder about renewing his driver's licence.

That happened on December 11, 2014, not at the December 7, 2015 consultation.

It was revealed police were given incorrect dates related to Lee's certificates by the agency on May 16, 2016.

It said they were issued on December 11 and 14, 2015 instead of December 14, 2012 and December 11, 2014.

At the end of the inquest Mr Elliott invited submissions from affected parties to be filed within two weeks and said he would also seek further information from the agency on its guidelines.


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