Driver didn't contribute to double-fatal 2013 Southland crash, coroner finds

The driver didn’t contribute to a 2013 truck and trailer crash in Southland which killed him and his passenger, a rehearing of the case by the Coroner has found.

Police car (file image). Source:

Murray Brenssell and his passenger Toby Waitokia died after the truck and trailer they were travelling in overturned on the Tapanui Highway in Waikaka Valley on December 6 that year.

The matter was referred to the Coroners Court after the families of the men expressed their dissatisfaction with the original findings and police investigation.

The matter was subsequently reinvestigated by police, who called on crash experts in New Zealand and in Australia to re-examine the evidence.

After examining the evidence, Coroner Peter Ryan concluded that there wasn’t a single cause of the crash, but four factors instead.

The truck's steel A-frame’s compromised structural integrity allowed the centre of mass to shift on the trailer when the effect of the undulating road surface came into play on the truck and trailer, Ryan found.

This effect was aggravated due to the suspension system on the trailer not dealing well with the high centre of mass of the load and the modest overload.

A single braking application by the driver part way through the bend, which was most likely due to a sudden movement of the trailer as a result of the undulated road would also have contributed.

As a result, Ryan agreed that it was inaccurate and unfair that Brenssell contributed to the truck rolling over.

Ryan made a recommendation covering the design and manufacture of A-frames used for carrying heavy and tall loads.

Police acknowledged the Brenssell and Waitokia families in a statement today.

“This has been a hard and long road for the families to get to this point,” Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis said.

“They were determined to make sure they got the answers as to what caused this crash and took the lives of their loved ones.”

It is our expectation that any recommendations are met to ensure our roads are a safer place for all.