Singaporean driver was distracted in fatal crash in NZ: Coroner

Singaporean's car crossed centre line of highway; other possible causes eliminated

The crash occurred at around noon on Dec 11, 2017, along the State Highway 6 on the west coast of the South Island. PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS

Singaporean Seow Kai Yuan, who died while driving a car in New Zealand, was distracted when his Toyota Camry crossed the centre line of a highway into the path of an oncoming camper van, a coroner has found.

The 29-year-old suffered head injuries and died at the scene shortly past noon, said Christchurch-based coroner Marcus Elliot of the crash along the west coast of South Island on Dec 11, 2017.

"Driving requires complete attention at all times. Driver distraction can have fatal consequences," Mr Elliot said late last month, following up on his findings last November.

Citing the New Zealand Transport Agency, he noted that driver distraction was a factor in 12 fatal crashes in 2018 and 155 serious injury collisions.

The coroner did not say what had distracted him, but noted: "Mr Seow was not watching the road and the vehicle crossed the centre line."

Mr Seow, a chemist, had studied chemistry and biochemistry at Nanyang Technological University and graduated in 2013.

He and his partner had arrived in New Zealand for a road trip nine days before the accident.

New Zealand news site, which reported the inquest, said the duo had travelled from Queenstown to Haast, where they spent the night of Dec 10, the day before the accident.

The following day, they toured the landscape at Lake Matheson and Franz Josef Glacier and had planned to go for lunch at a cafe in Hokitika town, about 134 km away.

They were travelling at 108kmh on a flat, straight section of State Highway 6 in Mahinapua when the collision occurred.

The news site reported that the duo were wearing seat belts and Mr Seow's partner was taking pictures of the landscape when the car crossed the highway's centre line.

It is understood the camper van's driver, a Dutch, could not evade Mr Seow's car, which had apparently crossed the road's centre line in a flash. A Canadian motorist behind the camper van reportedly witnessed the event.

The coroner eliminated other possible causes of the accident, saying the road condition was good and both drivers were not suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. New Zealand police said two people suffered minor injuries in the accident.

In May 2017, a Singaporean couple died in a crash on State Highway 1, about 40km south of Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2020, with the headline Singaporean driver was distracted in fatal crash in NZ: Coroner. Subscribe