‘Peo­ple were neg­li­gent’

The Press - - Front Page - Blair En­sor blair.en­[email protected]

At the age of 83, Colleen Case was in­de­pen­dent and ac­tive.

The widow – a mother of six and a keen bingo player – was a con­fi­dent driver and could of­ten be found vis­it­ing fam­ily and friends in Christchur­ch in her sil­ver Mazda car.

As she re­turned home from such an out­ing on Jan­uary 26, 2018, she was killed.

Case – de­scribed as ‘‘the glue that held her fam­ily to­gether’’ – was driv­ing along Lo­gis­tics Drive at 50kmh when she failed to stop or slow down at a com­pul­sory stop sign at the in­ter­sec­tion of Sawyers Arms Rd, an in­dus­trial area on the out­skirts of the city. Her car was struck on the pas­sen­ger side by a large truck and trailer unit that had the right of way and no chance of stop­ping.

She died at the scene.

At first glance, it ap­peared an un­re­mark­able crash where an el­derly driver had failed to see a red stop sign.

How­ever, when her son, David Case, vis­ited the scene later that day he was struck by the in­ter­sec­tion’s badly worn road mark­ings.

He would later learn that six weeks be­fore the crash po­lice had told the Christchur­ch City Coun­cil the white and yel­low lines needed re­paint­ing, but a con­trac­tor hadn’t com­pleted the work as per its con­tract. And that the in­ter­sec­tion had been flagged as one of ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant con­cern’’ but rec­om­mended changes hadn’t been made.

For nearly two years, Case has waited for the out­come of a coro­nial in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which has been slow in com­ing, in part be­cause the agen­cies un­der scru­tiny ob­jected to some of its pro­vi­sional find­ings.

The de­lays com­pounded the fam­ily’s grief, he says.

‘‘I feel an­gry be­cause ... some­one has not done their job – there are peo­ple who were neg­li­gent.

‘‘I’d like to see some ac­count­abil­ity.’’

The Sawyers Arms Rd and Lo­gis­tics Drive junc­tion was changed from a T to a cross­road in­ter­sec­tion on De­cem­ber 23, 2015, as part of a road­ing project that gave mo­torists eas­ier ac­cess to State High­way 1.

Ac­cord­ing to a Christchur­ch City

FROM

Coun­cil re­port, there were no crashes at the in­ter­sec­tion in the

23 months be­fore the change. From that date un­til Jan­uary

26, 2018, there were 10 crashes – the fa­tal­ity in­volv­ing Colleen Case, four that re­sulted in mi­nor in­juries, and five where those in­volved emerged un­scathed.

In Au­gust 2016, tem­po­rary ad­vance ‘‘stop’’ warn­ing signs were in­stalled ‘‘some dis­tance back’’ from each in­ter­sec­tion warn­ing of the need to stop at the in­ter­sec­tion.

An in­de­pen­dent road safety au­dit pro­vided to the NZ Trans­port Agency (NZTA) in April 2017 raised ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant con­cern’’ about the in­ter­sec­tion, say­ing the prob­a­bil­ity of a crash oc­cur­ring was ‘‘com­mon’’ and it was ‘‘likely’’ some­one would suf­fer se­ri­ous or fa­tal in­juries.

The re­port rec­om­mended line mark­ing changes which had not been made at the time of Case’s crash.

In find­ings, re­leased this week, coro­ner David Robin­son said there were four crashes at the in­ter­sec­tion in the four months to Oc­to­ber 26, 2017, and ‘‘greater pri­or­ity should have been af­forded to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the safety im­prove­ments aris­ing from the ... au­dit re­port’’.

Robin­son’s find­ings also show that on De­cem­ber 18, 2017, po­lice

David Case at the in­ter­sec­tion of Lo­gis­tics Drive and Sawyers Arms Rd where his mother, Colleen Case, was killed.

told the coun­cil that the mark­ings at the in­ter­sec­tion re­quired re­paint­ing. The next day, the coun­cil alerted its con­trac­tor, Ci­ty­care, which as­signed the work to Fulton Ho­gan.

The job was not high­lighted as a safety is­sue so it was put on a reg­u­lar main­te­nance sched­ule.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Ci­ty­care’s con­tract with the coun­cil, the in­ter­sec­tion should have been in­spected within two days.

That didn’t hap­pen. If it had, and the state of the road mark­ings were deemed to pose an

‘‘im­mi­nent hazard’’ to mo­torists, the work should have been car­ried out within six hours.

The mark­ings weren’t re­painted un­til the day af­ter Case’s crash, six weeks later.

Robin­son said the state of the in­ter­sec­tion’s mark­ings had not been ‘‘prop­erly as­sessed’’.

They were badly worn and an ap­proach­ing mo­torist ‘‘could well be for­given’’ for not see­ing them, he said.

How­ever, at the time of the crash there was a red stop sign at the in­ter­sec­tion and an ad­vance

David Case

warn­ing sign 100 me­tres fur­ther back.

Robin­son said he did ‘‘not dis­count the ap­pear­ance of the in­ter­sec­tion as be­ing a fac­tor’’ in the crash but he was sat­is­fied ‘‘the cause of the col­li­sion was likely to have been inat­ten­tion on the part of Mrs Case’’.

‘‘The man­ner of driv­ing is con­sis­tent with fail­ing to see the stop sign.’’

Robin­son said the key rec­om­men­da­tions of the 2017 safety au­dit had been im­ple­mented since the crash and the ‘‘cur­rent lay­out clearly con­veys that it is an in­ter­sec­tion at which the user does not have the right of way’’.

He rec­om­mended that the coun­cil and Ci­ty­care re­view their pro­cesses around pri­ori­tis­ing road mark­ing.

In a state­ment, the coun­cil’s city ser­vices gen­eral man­ager David Adam­son said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had ‘‘re­in­forced’’ to its con­trac­tors that any con­cerns about safety-re­lated road mark­ings must be re­sponded to with ur­gency.

‘‘We take any road crashes in the district very se­ri­ously and are com­mit­ted to do­ing all we can to en­sure the safety of all road users,’’ Adam­son said.

Ci­ty­care Group said it would ‘‘abide by the find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions of the coro­ner’’.

A Min­istry of Jus­tice spokesman said there were a va­ri­ety of rea­sons an in­quiry could be lengthy, in­clud­ing the need to con­sider ev­i­dence from sources.

He ac­knowl­edged de­lays could be frus­trat­ing for fam­i­lies. The min­istry was in the process of hir­ing eight re­lief coro­ners to ease a back­log of cases.

David Case be­lieves the coro­ner’s find­ings high­light the rel­e­vant is­sues in re­la­tion to his mother’s death. How­ever, the fam­ily would like an apol­ogy from those in­volved with the in­ter­sec­tion prior to the crash.

An NZTA rep­re­sen­ta­tive has agreed to meet with him to dis­cuss the case. He will re­quest that some­one from the coun­cil does the same.

Case hopes greater ur­gency will be af­forded to mak­ing changes to other in­ter­sec­tions across New Zealand when is­sues are iden­ti­fied. ‘‘We can’t have Mum back but hope­fully we can make sure this doesn’t hap­pen to any­one else.’’

‘‘We can’t have Mum back but hope­fully we can make sure this doesn’t hap­pen to any­one else.’’

CHRIS SKEL­TON/STUFF

Colleen Case died in a car ac­ci­dent at the in­ter­sec­tion of Lo­gis­tics Drive and Sawyers Arms Rd, Christchur­ch.

CHRIS SKEL­TON/STUFF

David Case be­lieves his mother's death could have been pre­vented.

CHRIS SKEL­TON/STUFF

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