22 Nov 2018

Fatality demanded tough response sooner, admits NZTA

9:05 pm on 22 November 2018

The Transport Agency admits it should have taken a tougher approach sooner with a Northland mechanic that issued a warrant of fitness to an unsafe car, that was later involved in a fatal crash.

Sixty-five-year-old William Ball was killed in January, when the car in which he was the front seat passenger lost control and crashed into a ditch near Dargaville.

Police officers investigating the crash found that the front passenger seatbelt was frayed and failed in the crash, NZTA said.

Dargaville Diesel Specialists, which issued the warrant just a month prior to the crash, admitted it had done so without properly inspecting the vehicle, the Transport Agency said.

NZTA chief executive Fergus Gammie said that was totally unacceptable.

"They did not check the vehicle properly, they did fail," he told Checkpoint.

Dargaville Diesel Specialists has been issuing warrants since 2010. Problems first became apparent in 2011, Mr Gammie said.

NZTA tried to work with the mechanic and educate them about what they should be doing.

During an unannounced inspection in late 2017, NZTA found that Dargaville Diesel Specialists weren't issuing warrants correctly and they weren't checking the seatbelts.

Mr Gammie said NZTA was too focused on education, rather than taking action sooner.

"We spent too much time trying to work with Dargaville Diesel Specialists, instead of actually acting to stop them doing it," he said.

Dargaville Diesel Specialists' was suspended from issuing warrants of fitness in August.

NZTA has subsequently identified almost 2000 vehicles that had warrants issued in the last year that need to be re-checked.


An investigation found the front passenger seatbelt was frayed and failed in the crash. Photo: 123RF

Mr Gammie said they had written to vehicle owners and NZTA will be following up with them to make sure action has been taken.

NZTA is covering the cost of re-inspections.

Mr Gammie said changes were being made at NZTA to take a tougher enforcement approach.

An extensive review of NZTA compliance files was launched last month and that report will be made public once it's been completed, Mr Gammie said.

Mechanic disputes role in crash

Dargaville Diesel Specialists owner Rodney Wilson insisted the car Mr Ball was a passenger in was safe when he inspected it.

"A warrant of fitness only represents that the car is fit to be issued a warrant on the day of inspection, after that, who knows."

Mr Wilson said he was not to blame and his health had suffered as a result of the investigation.

He said he was probably going to sell up his business, because of the pressure he had been under.

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