Tauranga teen had history of dangerous driving - coroner

7:33 am on 11 November 2017

A coroner has found a Tauranga teenager who died after his car plunged down a bank had a history of driving dangerously.

st john ambulance

Photo: RNZ - Alexander Cook

Levi Penberthy-Green, who was 18, died of his injuries in April 2015 after he failed to stop for police and was pursued.

The coroner, Michael Robb, has released the findings of his inquest.

On the night of 10 April, Mr Penberthy-Green had been at a friend's party, before he left momentarily to do burnouts down the road with a friend.

While he was away from the party, an altercation broke out, and when he returned Levi and his friend were mistaken for the culprits.

Mr Penberthy-Green was then punched by an adult at the party and fled in his car. After two phone calls to friends who were still there, he decided to return despite warnings police were on their way.

Police pulled up behind Mr Penberthy-Green's car as he neared the party and turned on their sirens after seeing he had no rear or brake lights.

But Mr Penberthy-Green sped off and, within eight seconds, had rounded a corner and plunged down a bank, where he was thrown from his seat and pinned underneath his car.

He had not been wearing a seatbelt and, Mr Robb said, his death would likely have been avoided if he had been.

Mr Robb said the public gallery was packed during the inquest, which showed the teenager was a "well-loved young man whose death had been a shock".

The findings detailed the 18-year-old's history of dangerous driving, including a prior conviction and three crashes on the day before he died.

Mr Penberthy-Green was three times over the alcohol limit and had smoked cannabis at the time of his death.

The coroner described Mr Penberthy-Green's love of modifying his car and pulling off various driving activities such as doughnuts and drifting.

"Just because an individual has demonstrated an ability to carry out drifting, skidding and doughnuts without any serious injury in the past does not mean that good luck will continue," the coroner said.

Mr Robb found that Mr Penberthy-Green's car was in an unfit state to drive, due to continual modifications, including to the brakes.

"Driving in that state in a vehicle in the condition that Levi's vehicle was in was akin to Russian roulette," he said.

He called for better adult supervision at parties and more strenuous safe driving messages throughout the community.

Police led education and television advertising has its place, he said, but some people can resist messages from police.

"For that reason, I recommend that messages about driving with a seatbelt and not intoxicated be conveyed in conjunction with individuals who are not associated directly with the police but who can present the message from a personal perspective."

The coroner ruled out police actions as contributing factors to the cause of death.