Intoxicated driver also had cannabis in system: coroner

The role of cannabis in the death of builder Rowan Alexander George Yeager (34) in a car crash at Freehold Creek, near Lake Ohau Rd, on April 25, 2017, has been highlighted by coroner David Robinson.

Mr Yeager's Subaru was discovered on its roof in Freehold Creek beneath a single-lane bridge about 6am on April 25. Mr Yeager was lying next to it.

Mr Robinson found his death to have been accidental, and he made no recommendations.

He noted Mr Yeager had a blood-alcohol level of 273mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The legal maximum driving limit is 50mg.

"Mr Yeager was, therefore, more than five times over the legal limit," Mr Robinson said.

"He was grossly intoxicated."

And the blood test was also positive for cannabis.

"He simply should not have consumed alcohol and cannabis and driven," Mr Robinson said.

"The effects of the alcohol will no doubt be exacerbated by concurrent cannabis use, something which should be of some moment given the forthcoming referendum on the potential legalisation of cannabis use."

Mr Robinson said the analyst considered that given the extreme blood-alcohol level, the low speed (about 27kmh) and "complete failure to steer", it might have been that Mr Yeager was "either comatose or asleep at the time of the crash".

Mr Yeager had been drinking the previous evening at the Lake Ohau Lodge, about 6.5km from where he lived at the Lake Ohau Village.

Mr Robinson covered the issue of host responsibility.

The bar manager recalled Mr Yeager drinking about four or five jugs of beer between 5pm and 1am.

"By 1am, [the manager] noticed that Mr Yeager was getting a bit intoxicated."

By the time last drinks were called at 1.15am, Mr Yeager had left.

Mr Robinson said police and the Oamaru District Council licensing officer visited the Lake Ohau Lodge and found "no breaches of host obligations".

Police acknowledged the possibility Mr Yeager had continued to drink in private with houseguests or by himself in his vehicle prior to leaving.

"For that reason police did not consider they could prosecute Lake Ohau Lodge."

mark.price@odt.co.nz

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