4 Dec 2019

Driver in fatal collision claims police washed away evidence

6:25 pm on 4 December 2019

The driver of a truck that slammed into a campervan killing two tourists a decade ago has accused the police of washing away evidence that would prove a mechanical fault caused the crash.

Eva Fajula Roma and Joan Roma Serra, both 34, died instantly in the crash on December 22, 2009.

Eva Fajula Roma and Joan Roma Serra, both 34, died instantly in the crash on December 22, 2009. Photo: NZ Herald

The couple, both 34 years old, were on their way to the Bay of IslandsI when a Linfox truck and trailer unit smashed into them on State Highway One, just north of Whangarei.

A second inquest into their deaths opened at the Auckland District Court this morning. Lawyers, police officers and witnesses to the fatal crash filed into a small courtroom, like they did in 2012, when Mr Roma-Serra and Ms Fajula-Rovira's deaths were first investigated by Coroner Brandt Shortland.

Notably, the driver of the truck that crashed into their campervan was not at that inquest, despite a summons and numerous attempts by the police to find him.

Coroner Shortland later found the tourists couldn't have avoided the crash that he said was caused by driver error.

In 2016, the truck driver Ioane Etuale asked the Solicitor General to open a second inquest on the grounds he was not at the first to provide evidence.

Today he told the coroner the crash was the result of a power steering failure - not driver error.

"I was on a straight piece of road and all of a sudden the steering wheel in the truck started shaking. It was shaking for a few seconds and then I heard something snap, it was quite loud."

Coroner Peter Ryan said after the crash, investigators found no evidence of a mechanical failure.

"My impression from reading those reports is that the inspectors could not find an obvious snap or fracture in the steering mechanism. Do you accept that...or do you not?"

"No," Mr Etuale responded.

Oil on the road after the crash clearly showed there was a mechanical fault, Mr Etuale said.

He told the inquest there were witnesses, who he has since tried to track down, who saw oil on the road too.

But Coroner Ryan said photos of the crash don't appear to back up that claim.

Mr Etuale told the inquest the police and the fire brigade washed away the oil before the pictures were taken.

They did this as they wanted to cover up the fact they'd ignored previous warnings about the quality of the road, he said.

"New Zealand police, everybody swear for the truth. Serve the country with truth and honesty and justice. This is all lies."

Coroner Ryan questioned the likelihood of this, as debris from the crash had not been cleared at the time the pictures were taken, which would make it difficult to clean the road.

But Mr Etuale was adamant the police washed away the evidence.

He earlier told the inquest he wished he was dead.

"I wish I die, I wish I die and give my life to these innocent people, forgive me."

"I'm so sorry, they are innocent. I should die, I should give my life to them."

Mr Etuale said he wants justice for the Spanish tourists.

"I am speaking because there are two lives lost and I carry that every single minute, every single second with me."

The inquest is set down for three days and will resume at the Auckland District Court tomorrow morning.