Inquest into driver's suitability

The partner of a Waikouaiti man killed in 2016 when a driver mounted an Oamaru footpath and ploughed into him and two others says requesting a coronial inquest was the last thing she could do to put more than three years of grieving and pain behind her.

The inquest, overseen by Coroner Marcus Elliott, started at the Oamaru District Court yesterday and was requested by the partner of Gerald James Cowley (67), Midge Henderson, who is seeking clarification on why William Arthur Lee (88) was allowed to drive, given his reported medical issues and how police handled the investigation.

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

A suppression order on the reporting of some details of Ms Henderson's statement was made at the beginning of the inquest.

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

He was charged with operating a motor vehicle carelessly causing death and three charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury.

Lee pleaded guilty to all four charges at the Timaru District Court on October 16 last year and was disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to pay a total of $10,000 reparation to Mr Cowley's partner and Ms Booth.

Ms Henderson claimed police did not complete a full and thorough investigation, and that police delayed interviewing Lee.

She also claimed Lee was given an agency certificate to drive on December 7, 2015, despite having told his GP, Dr Margaret Larder, on that date that he had been having dizzy spells as the result of an undiagnosed medical condition.

Dr Larder explained she only saw Lee once in December 2015, on the 7th, but he was not given a certificate to drive on that date.

His ability to drive was not discussed during that consultation and in the 18 months she had treated him, Lee had not discussed having suffered any form of blackout.

She said the certificate was in fact issued a year earlier, on December 7, 2014.

The inquest continues.

daniel.birchfield@odt.co.nz

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