12 Jan 2017

Fatal car crash was deliberate - coroner

1:18 pm on 12 January 2017

A coroner in Hawke's Bay has ruled that a young woman deliberately drove her car into another vehicle in an attempt to commit suicide.

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Photo: 123rf.com

She lived, but the driver of the other car was killed.

After the crash, the young woman was charged with manslaughter by the police, but was acquitted after some evidence was ruled inadmissible.

Coroner Tim Scott then looked into the case, and concluded the woman did cause the crash.

He found she deliberately drive into another car in a vain attempt to take her own life.

But he suppressed her identity and those of her associates, saying nothing good would come from revealing her name.

He added she had a fragile personality and would not handle public identification well.

The incident happened near Taradale in July 2014.

Pam McGarva, a 55-year-old early childhood teacher, was travelling to a quiz night at the Napier RSA.

At 6.20 pm, a car travelling towards her crossed the centre line and smashed into her vehicle at between 80 and 98 kilometres an hour.

Ms McGarva died from head injuries 10 days later.

The woman who caused the crash was injured, but survived.

She did not give evidence at her own trial but was summonsed by the coroner, Mr Scott, to give testimony at the inquest.

He ruled that she deliberately steered at the other car in an attempt to kill herself.

"The possibility that she lost control of her car for some other reason, such as tiredness or distraction, was just that: a possibility rather than a probability, and a remote, even fanciful, possibility at that," the coroner wrote.

He went on to say that at the woman's criminal trial, material could be excluded if it was deemed to be hearsay or privileged.

But a coroner could consider all evidence, and issue a judgment based on the balance of probability, not beyond reasonable doubt.

She had a history of suicidal thoughts, which had been expressed to her GP, to a petrol station attendant and a sales assistant in a hardware store.

Ms McGarva's brother, Neil McGarva, says the report set the record straight and vindicated his sister, but he wished the jury had heard all the evidence at trial.

"It's better than before. I mean, what would be better would be the coroner's report and the evidence being presented to the jury first time around, so they could make an informed decision. We were let down by the trial, and by the court case, but we were vindicated by the coroner."

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155