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Coroner: Driver’s fatigue, lack of awareness possibly reason for 2017 NZ car crash that killed SG couple

They were driving within two hours of landing after a 10-hour flight

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Singapore—In an update to the 2017 car crash in New Zealand that killed a Singaporean couple, the coroner has said that the man, Mr Chin Tze Hau, 38, might have been fatigued and drove without awareness at the time of the accident.

The couple had taken an overnight flight that arrived in New Zealand at around 8.30 am on May 4, 2017.

Their trip had taken almost 10 hours.

By 10.30 am, they took a hired camper van and Mr Chin started driving.

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A head-on collision with a truck shortly after 1 pm killed Mr Chin and his wife, Ms Ong See Yee. They had been married for six years and had taken the trip to New Zealand to celebrate Ms Ong’s 29th birthday.

In her report issued last month, New Zealand coroner Anna Tutton said, “The (NZ) police considered that Mr Chin may have been fatigued and was either driving without awareness or having a micro-sleep at the time of the accident,” according to a straitstimes.com (ST) report.

Based on her findings late last year, she also said, “Ms Ong and Mr Chin were provided with advice to get good quality sleep after a long flight. The dangers of driving while fatigued are evidenced by their deaths.”

Mr Chin and Ms Ong died on impact when the camper van they had hired collided with the truck.

The accident happened on State Highway 1 near Bankside, about 40 km south of Christchurch.

The high-energy impact injuries to their heads and upper bodies took the lives of the couple, while the driver of the truck sustained an injury to his arm.

ST reports that shortly before the accident occurred, the camper van driven by Mr Chin started to swerve off of the road. When he tried to correct it, it turned onto its side.

It then crashed into a “ute” (a utility vehicle like a pickup truck).

According to Ms Sutton, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has said that in cases of fatigue, what a person needs to do is stop and get some good sleep.

She added that the NZTA also says that if an overnight stop is impractical, drivers should take a break every 100 km or every two hours.

The NZTA said the following are the signs of fatigue: difficulty in maintaining focus, holding one’s head upright, keeping one’s eyes open, daydreaming, wandering, loss of memory or disconnected thoughts. 

If a driver is repeatedly rubbing their eyes or yawning, swerving lanes, tailgating or feelings of irritability and restlessness, that also indicates fatigue.

The couple had both worked in Kaki Bukit at an audio-visual products company. Mr Chin had worked as a technical director and his wife had been an operations executive.

/TISG

Read also: Singaporean tourist pleads guilty after car crash kills 84-year-old woman in New Zealand

Singaporean tourist pleads guilty after car crash kills 84-year-old woman in New Zealand

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