Court, Emergency

Coroner rules over cause of death

Gareth Root died after his car plunged into a river at a local campground. Photo: File.

A man who drowned when his car plunged into the Opaōa River was over the legal driving limit and had taken drugs.

Gareth Root, 35, drowned after crashing his car into the river at the Top 10 Holiday Park on 29 December 2018.

A coroner has ruled that the victim’s driving was the ultimate cause of death but noted poor signage may have contributed.

In his findings, coroner David Robinson says police has identified the absence of signs or marker posts.

These could have helped highlight a sharp bend in the road running through the campground.

“While ultimately Mr Root’s death was due to the manner of his driving, there may be some merit in the camping ground considering the installation of some signage to highlight the corner,” he wrote

Toxicology testing confirmed Gareth was more than three times over the legal blood alcohol limit.

Cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were found in his system.

Gareth and another resident at the park had been drinking together on the night he died. The father of one was helped to bed about 10.30pm.

Police later got reports of a black Hilux being driven erratically around the park.

Witnesses say they had heard “loud crashing sounds” as the vehicle hit trees, other cars, and a tent.

A driver near the park later noticed the Hilux stopped “precariously” on the riverbank.

But by the time he managed to get to the scene, the car had rolled and was underwater. The doors could not be opened.

Based on evidence at the scene, the Serious Crash Unit determined that Mr Root’s vehicle failed to negotiate a bend and left the road.

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