12 Jun 2013

Seatbelts may have saved students, inquest told

8:59 pm on 12 June 2013

An inquest has heard if three American students had been wearing seatbelts they could very well have survived a crash in the central North Island.

The Boston University students were on their way to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing when the van they were travelling in rolled on State Highway 46 near Turangi on 12 May last year.

Daniela Lekhno, 20, Roch Jauberty and Austin Brashears, both 21, died after suffering severe head injuries and Meg Theriault, 21, was seriously injured after being thrown from the van.

Four others, including driver Stephen Houseman, were taken to hospitals in Rotorua and Taupo with minor injuries.

Police crash analyst Tina Mitchell-Ellis told the inquest in Rotorua on Wednesday the four were not wearing seatbelts.

"Although not a contributory factor to the cause of the crash, it should be mentioned that had the deceased and the seriously injured passenger been wearing seatbelts they could very well have survived this, as did the passengers that were wearing seatbelts."

Ms Mitchell-Ellis also referred to a statement given by the driver which said passengers had been asked to put their seatbelts on.

Coroner Wallace Bain has reserved his decision.