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Driver fatigue blamed for crash near Picton that killed 7 family members



A coroner has found seven members of the same family died when their van crashed head on into a truck near Picton last year because the driver was fatigued.

The van carrying nine people crashed after crossing the centre line of State Highway 1 on 19 June 2022.

Paul Brown, his wife Diseree Lagud, Mark John Lagud,15, Flordeliza Dolar, 19, Divina Dolar, 47, Li-Hsuan Chen, and Mika Ella Chen Clariman, aged six months, died in the crash.

Coroner Alison Mills found the driver, Paul Brown, had been experiencing microsleep, when a person drifts in and out of sleep without knowing it.

“These naps can last between three and five seconds and are the main cause of fatigue-related crashes where the driver runs off the road.

“If this happens while driving it can cost you and your loved ones their lives.”

She concluded Brown had no more than three hours and 50 minutes sleep in the 24 hours before the accident.

Although it was possible he may have had slightly more sleep between Timaru and Rolleston Mills, she said she accepted it would have been minimal and would not have been meaningful deep sleep.

The van’s break filaments showed no signs of hot shock, indicating they were not illuminated and that the brakes were not used during the crash.

Nor was there any physical evidence Brown reacted or made an effort to avoid colliding with the oncoming truck.

Brown and his wife Diseree Lagud, together with seven members of their extended family had planned the trip to attend Brown’s aunt’s funeral in Gore, which was held the day before the fatal crash, and to visit his mother in Dunedin.

It was meant to be a chance to show family visiting from the Philippines parts of the South Island.

Brown was described as a “very safe driver” who always kept to the left because it was safer, was not known to drive fast and always told passengers to wear their seat belts, the report said.

On the morning of the fatal crash, Brown woke his family at 2.30am and told them to get in the van. Brown had had no sleep because he was talking to his friend.

His wife’s 26-year-old son Pedro Lagud Clariman commented he thought they were going to stay and sleep at the friend’s house until about 5am, but Brown wanted to get to Picton early and have breakfast before catching the midday ferry.

Brown’s friend confirmed in the Coroner’s report that he offered the family a chance to stay despite not having enough beds for everyone. He and Brown spent the night chatting as they had not seen each other for four years.

He provided hot drinks and food but no alcohol.

He had no concerns about the family’s choice to continue driving after they left.

The family left Rolleston at around 3am with Pedro in the driver’s seat for almost four hours, though he pulled over for a 15-minute break because he felt sleepy.

Brown took over the driving.

Richard Thompson, the driver of the truck and trailer unit, said as he came around the bend on State Highway 1 he saw a van coming towards him which kept coming across the centre line.

He said he tried to avoid the van by hugging the left side of the road and applying the brakes but was unable to avoid the collision.

He lost steering of the truck as the wheel locked up while he was pulling hard on it.

The truck ended up in a ditch on the opposite side of the road and rolled over.

The crash knocked the van backwards about 20 metres. It was extensively damaged, including the driver’s side being mangled and pushed back and over to the right passengers side.

At the time of the accident, Pedro remembers dozing and listening to the noise of the van. He could not hear anything then suddenly felt and heard an impact.

He opened his eyes and felt his legs and face hurting.

Pedro’s six-month-old daughter Mika was not restrained properly in her car seat. The baby capsule was found lodged against the pillar by the driver’s seat and was severely damaged.

Several members of the public including two nurses arrived at the scene and attempted to provide first aid and assess injuries.

When Pedro managed to get out of the van he was in extreme shock.

Coroner Alison Mills said the accident was avoidable and a reminder of the real risks of driving when tired or fatigued.

She encouraged drivers to be aware of the signs of fatigue, plan journeys that did not involve travelling excessive distances and make sure they got sufficient sleep.

Source: RNZ

Photo: Trish Rawlings

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Rookie metal detectorist’s copper pipe discovery turns out to be guns, ammunition



A Wellington man thought he was about to dig up an old copper pipe with his metal detector before finding two AK-74s and ammunition.

On Wednesday Dan O’Donnell was trying out a metal detector for the first time in the suburb of Berhampore when he detected a faint signal, so he started digging he told Midday Report.

“It got bigger and bigger as I got down deeper in the hole and my curiosity was definitely growing and I just thought I’d be digging up some old copper pipe.”

O’Donnell said when he hit a bag that turned out contained the gun and ammunition, he thought it was a bit suspicious.

“To be honest I just had no idea what to expect – like it could have been some old rubbish.”

Metal detectorist finds guns in Wellington

The items were buried deep in the ground. Photo: Supplied / Dan Donnell

He said the items were buried very deep and had tree roots growing over them, so it was clear they had been there a long time.

“When I fully uncovered it, I could see that there was newspaper on there dating to 1993 so it had been there for 30 years.”

He called the police immediately but wasn’t concerned due to the obvious age of the items.

Metal detectorist finds guns in Wellington

Photo: Supplied / Dan Donnell

O’Donnell said he posted the photos to a metal detecting group with people telling him it was “the find of a lifetime”.

He said he would continue metal detecting but acknowledged his future finds might not be as exciting.

“The dream is to find a gold coin or something like that, something with a bit of historical significance but it’s going to be a bit of a comedown from here I think.”

Police have told O’Donnell that the guns are AK-74s.

Metal detectorist finds guns in Wellington

Photo: Supplied / Dan Donnell

According to Britannica, the AK-47, a Soviet assault rifle, is possibly the most widely used shoulder weapon in the world.

Almost from when it was officially adopted by the Soviet military in 1949, the AK-47 was recognised as being simple to operate, reliable under trying conditions, and amenable to mass production.

During the 1970s, the AK-74 was adopted. It adapted the basic Kalashnikov design and a later version, the AK-74M, was the main infantry weapon of the Russian army into the 21st century.

Police have told RNZ enquiries are being carried out and a forensic examination of the items will be conducted.


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Households still in grip of high food costs



Whangārei mother of two Kyla is struggling with the increased cost of food.

“We spend $300 to $400 a week and I feel like most weeks that is not even a trolley full. Every week it gets more expensive, we buy the same stuff pretty much every week and I notice a $1 to $2 increase on items every week,” she says.

They previously would have eaten meat every night but now try to have a couple of “meatless” nights each week.

Most of her income went on covering daycare costs, she said, and her husband worked full-time as a truck driver.

“It’s ridiculous the price of stuff. We shop at multiple different shops to get specials and it still doesn’t make a difference. My son also has food needs as he’s got ADHD so only eats certain foods, which we have to buy for him. Our daughter eats the complete opposite so we have to cater for both children and it feels impossible some weeks.

“We used to have takeout nights but we can’t justify spending over $50 a week on that.”

Auckland woman Julie has been feeling the pinch, too.

“I have a child who loves to bake and a lot of the essentials for that, like butter, have gone up, and that’s been a bit tricky to manage, as we want to encourage his interest but also are mindful of costs at times when money is tight.

“My partner lost their job and we had a period of lower than usual income and it was very stressful having to rely on the credit card for groceries until he got a new job. We were lucky too; my income is high and we had savings. I can’t imagine how hard it is for those living pay to pay.”

Food inflation ran hot in recent years, peaking at year-on-year increases of more than 12 percent in the middle of last year.

While prices have been softening so far this year, a monthly lift in April was the first increase in three months.

Household living costs data shows that between 2008 and 2021 the proportion of income being spent on food lifted from 18 percent to 21 percent.

Woman shopping at the supermarket, she is checking a long grocery receipt and leaning on a cart, budgeting and lifestyle concept

Photo: 123RF

ASB senior economist Kim Mundy said for the lowest-income New Zealanders, the proportion had risen from 19 percent to 22.2 percent between 2008 and 2023.

A researcher at Kore Hiaki Zero Hunger Collective, Jennie Sim, said her analysis showed food prices had lifted about $40 to $50 a week year on year last year for a two-adult, two -child household.

Solo parents’ costs were up about $30.

But she said that did not reveal the full extent of the impact on families, because many would not have been able to cover the increased costs.

“The reality is most households on low incomes don’t spend that money because food is discretionary, it’s the one thing they can squeeze… they don’t have that money left after their housing costs and their fixed living costs so they’re spending a fraction of what they should to get nutritional food. They’re trying to get assistance via community food banks.”

Fincap, the organisation that supports financial mentors, said the mentors in its network reported a drop in spending on groceries for their clients in 2023, to 19.6 percent of income because of the impact of other costs.

Mundy said that substitution effect was seen across the income brackets.

For the highest-income households, the proportion of income spent on food lifted from 15.9 percent in 2008 to 20.4 percent in 2023.

“Depending on where you are, if you started shopping at Farro now you’re moving to New World then Countdown, then Pak’nSave or maybe you’re now just purely shopping supermarket homebrand labels, or stuff that’s nearly expired.

“You can make those substitutions to a degree so there will be an element of that going on. People love that anecdote at the moment of going to the Pak’nSave carpark and you’ve never seen more Mercedes SUVs in your life. There’s that kind of thing the base numbers hide.”

She said it should be the case that food price increases continued to slow.

“We do think that food prices more generally are going to keep coming down. In part it’s driven by the fruit and vegetable Cyclone Gabrielle effect has largely come through, we’ve seen commodity prices globally come down which is helpful.”

But she said there were still shocks – as seen with the increases in olive oil and cocoa in the most recent statistics.

“Those shocks are lifting at the same time as the fresh food prices are falling so we see an offset there. But to the extent that demand is slowing because of tighter monetary policy we should see food price inflation fall just like we’re expecting inflation to fall elsewhere as well.”


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NZTA to axe 24 more jobs in third round of proposed cuts



The transport agency has announced a proposed further reduction of 24 jobs, this time from the engagement and partnerships team.

It comes on top of two previous announcements: 109 roles from the Clean Car Discount, Climate Emergency Response Fund, and Let’s Get Wellington Moving projects; and 12 roles from the digital team.

It’s part of a government directive for agencies to cut costs, with NZTA Waka Kotahi asked to cut 7.5 percent of its expenditure.

NZTA people, culture and safety group general manager Caz Jackson said it was not approaching it as an agency-wide restructuring programme.

“Instead, each of our business groups is aligning resources with the available budget and priorities, ensuring a strategic and targeted approach to the changes.

“Consultation [with the engagement and partnerships team specifically] will run through until 6 June 2024. Following the consideration of feedback final decisions are expected to be made by the end of June 2024.”

The proposed changes include disestablishing 57 existing positions, including 18 currently vacant, creating 15 new positions and moving 16 jobs to a different group within NZTA, for a net reduction of 24, excluding vacancies.

Workers’ union Public Service Association said experienced staff working on road safety campaigns and supporting local councils were under threat.

Assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said it was particularly egregious as it came in the middle of Road Safety Week, which involved hundreds of schools, organisations and communities promoting road safety awareness.

“These are just more mixed messages from the government which says it’s committed to safer roads but is happy to dismiss the people doing the mahi to keep travellers safe,” Fitzsimons said.

She said the engagement and partnership business group delivered road safety marketing and education programmes and supported local councils to deliver road safety education to at-risk communities.

“This group provides valuable support and resources to local councils, so how are they supposed to fill the gap and keep their communities safe with these proposed cuts?”

Source: RNZ

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