6 May 2011

Officer found to have been texting before fatal crash

6:36 pm on 6 May 2011

A coroner has found a police officer involved in a fatal crash had been texting a woman the night he hit and killed a teenager.

Rawiri Wilson, 16, died on State Highway 1 near Kaikohe in July 2009, when he was struck by a police patrol car driven by Constable Jamie Anderson.

The crash happened before the passing of legislation banning the use of mobile phones while driving.

Coroner Garry Evans says Constable Anderson had spent an hour earlier in the evening outside a rugby club, where he made contact with two young women.

He said the officer had kept in touch with one woman during the night by text messaging and had received a text 25 seconds before he hit Rawiri Wilson.

The teenager, who had been drinking and smoking cannabis, was walking along the highway with his brother and cousin to a party at Ohaeawai.

Constable Anderson told the inquest he could not remember opening the text message. However, the coroner says there is a suspicion he may have been distracted by it.

Mr Evans also found the officer was driving on an unlit road with his lights on dip and if they had been on high beam, he might have been seen Rawiri Wilson in time to avoid the fatal crash.