27 Jun 2012

Driver error caused fatal Northland crash

9:13 pm on 27 June 2012

A coroner has found driver error caused the death of two Spanish tourists killed in a crash in Northland last summer.

Joan Roma-Serra and his partner Eva Fajula-Rovira, both 34, died at the crash scene north of Whangarei after the driver of a truck and trailer unit lost control and it slammed into their camper van.

They were nearing the end of a three-week holiday in New Zealand and were on their way to the Bay of Islands for a quick visit before returning to Spain for Christmas.

A utility following the tourists was also hit when the oncoming truck and trailer jack-knifed, causing serious injuries to a child in the ute.

The Auckland truck driver, Ioane Etuale, did not appear at the inquest despite a summons: police said they had been unable to find him.

But he told the police after the crash that his steering wheel started shaking and became loose after he heard a bang under his feet.

He said he braked but could not stop the empty truck and trailer from sliding into the northbound lane and hitting the camper van.

Roading engineers found a 30-metre section of State Highway 1, near the crash scene, was corrugated and due for repair, but said other truck drivers negotiated it safely and Mr Etuale's truck had gone out of control before this section.

Northland coroner Brandt Shortland said testing had found nothing mechanically wrong with the truck and the loss of control was a direct result of driver error.

He said the Spanish tourists had no way of avoiding the crash, and their avoidable deaths had had a huge impact on their families.