'One of the worst decisions we’ve ever made': Tenant breaks down at inquest

Sophia Crestani (inset) died during an overcrowded party at a student flat known as "The Manor"...
Sophia Crestani (inset) died during an overcrowded party at a student flat known as "The Manor" in Dunedin's Dundas St.
A tenant at the flat where Sophia Crestani died says the party they hosted felt safe to him.

Coroner Heather McKenzie’s inquest into the 19-year-old’s death continued today at Dunedin.

Miss Crestani died in a stairwell pile-up in 2019 at an overcrowded flat party dubbed "Maggot Fest".

Since then, her parents -  Elspeth McMillan and Bede Crestani  - have advocated for safe student behaviour in Dunedin.

A man who was a tenant at the flat known as "The Manor" gave evidence that there had been two parties of a similar size that year.

The inquest heard 400 people were invited on Facebook and the witness said that was normal and they did not expect everyone invited to attend.

The witness, who has interim name suppression, said the North Dunedin environment created some pressure to host parties, especially in a named flat.

"Whether it's right or wrong there seems to be an expectation to have parties, and have parties we did," the witness said.

He told police people started "pouring in" at about 8pm.

"It appeared to be just like the other parties we had run," he said.

"The party felt safe to me."

The witness explained he spent most of the night in a bedroom with some mates and the door was locked.

Party-goers gave statements which said people were banging on the door but nobody opened it.

"The presence of the smacking and the pounding on the door didn't raise alarm bells for me at the time," the tenant said.

"When I was in the party I didn't see . . . anything out of the ordinary at the time."

He said when he left his room before 11pm he noticed the stairs were crowded and slow moving.

Ms McMillan asked the witness if he thought opening the door to let people into his room could have eased the congestion in other rooms and possibly prevented Miss Crestani’s death.

"Obviously yes," the witness said before becoming upset and explaining he thinks about it often.

He said they had barricaded doors in the house to prevent people from entering specific rooms and to stop them from getting onto the external balcony.

The witness explained the tenants had the 2016 balcony collapse in mind when boarding up the doors and believed this would help contain the party and prevent a similar situation.

"Retrospectively that was one of the worst decisions we’ve ever made," the tenant said before breaking down in tears.

Mr Crestani asked what the witness did to look after the health and safety of the guests.

"Not much. Nothing," he replied.

Mr Crestani asked the witness why the flat would host a party despite multiple noise complaints, excessive noise directions and a letter from the Proctor which raised concerns about overcrowding in 2019.

Following the letter, the property manager had a meeting with some of the tenants and discussed the dangers of overcrowding and the noise issue.

"At the time, it seemed as if the property manager was out to get you," the witness said.

"The significance of the letter would not have been noted at the time."

The inquest will continue this afternoon and more party-goers are expected to give evidence.