The New Zealand Herald
Driver recalls the horror of crash that killed mum of 7
Police tell coroner both drivers would have had impeded view at intersection
Adriver involved in a crash in Mid Canterbury that killed a mother of seven and her two youngest children has spoken for the first time about the terrifying impact.
And it has been revealed that the intersection where the crash happened had inadequate signs and poor visibility — factors that authorities have since heavily improved to prevent further tragedies.
Chante Harmer, 30, died alongside 19-month-old Te Awanuiarangi Tapiata-Harmer and 8-month-old Wysdom Tapiata-Harmer after the crash in April 2019 near Ashburton.
Harmer was driving her young children and other family members when she failed to give way and hit an oncoming Ford Ranger. Harmer’s car was torn in half. A teenage passenger in her car was critically injured but the Ford’s driver escaped with minor injuries.
An inquest to determine why Harmer failed to give way was held in the Ashburton District Court before coroner Marcus Elliot yesterday.
The driver of the Ford, who has name suppression, gave a statement to police three days after the crash, which was read in court.
She said at the time of impact she was travelling below the speed limit and as she approached the intersection she could not see any vehicles.
“As I got very close I saw a car emerge at high speed. I was already committed. The next thing, I heard a huge bang,” she said. “It was split second and so fast, then she suddenly looked up and that’s the moment I made eye contact with her, and that’s when our vehicles collided.
“I remember the horrific sound. The rush of wind coming through the windows ... I remember the car rolling. I remember the air bags deploying, one by one.
“I got out out of the car and started screaming ‘ somebody help me’.”
She ran to the other car and could see Harmer was “clearly deceased”.
“I saw a deceased child in the paddock,” she said.
She went to support the injured passenger. Two motorists soon stopped and called 111.
Elliot heard that Harmer, a muchloved mother of seven who lost a child to cot death in 2006, was on her way to see her partner at work when she died.
Police said there was evidence Harmer was braking at the time of the crash but the Give Way sign before the intersection “blended into the background of the Canterbury landscape” and she likely did not see it.
The intersection had faded road markings, sizeable concrete irrigation culverts on both sides of the road, a raised roadside and a tall hedge.
Senior Constable John McIntyre said both drivers would have had an impeded view as a result.
Neither driver was speeding or using cellphones when they collided.
The road is now controlled by a stop sign and a stop warning sign is in place 200m before the intersection.
Since the crash the culverts have been removed, the roadside flattened out and the hedgeline improved to increase visibility.
Elliot will release his findings and any recommendations later this year.
It was split second and so fast, then she suddenly looked up. Driver of other vehicle in her statement to police