Rangimaria White's death 'tragically avoidable' - Coroner's findings
The death of a young woman, who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident, was "tragically avoidable" and the adults who were aware she had been drinking should be the subject of a criminal investigation, a Coroner has found.
Coroner Michael Robb found the lack of care and responsibility shown for Rangimaria White had fallen well below moral and social standards.
"This was a tragically avoidable death of a young woman with considerable promise, she is a loss to her family and to her community."
The "confident, engaging and social young woman" was 14 when she passed out on an Opotiki road after drinking too much and was fatally run over by a car, which did not stop, on July 25, 2015.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
She was having a sleepover with her 13-year-old friend. Her parents thought she was going to be watching m ovies.
Instead they embarked on a hunt for alcohol. The plan was to pre-drink at home until the afterball party for the Opotiki College Ball kicked off around 12.30am.
No permission had been sought to supply Rangimaria with alcohol.
Rangimaria was a gifted child who, by the age of 4, was fluent in te reo and taught herself to read in English. By age 10 she was taking high school maths and helping her classmates with their work. Her family thought she would be a good teacher.
Rangimaria and her friend went to four different addresses in search of someone to buy them alcohol. Her friend's mum and aunties were drinking, helping her brother get ready for the ball and didn't want to go out to purchase more alcohol.
At 9.38pm Rangimaria's friend texted her cousin, who they had already seen earlier, to see if she could buy them "a box".
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Her friend's cousin was working at the Caltex Service Station. As she was 17 she asked one of her older work colleagues to buy the alcohol. The colleague, who had seen the girls earlier in the evening, agreed to purchase a 12-pack of Smirnoff premixes.
All three girls walked back to the 13-year-old's house where her older sister was.
The 13-year-old's mother Sonya had bought two boxes of pre-mix vodka drinks for the 17-year-old and her older sister. There was a baby in the house so the four girls sat drinking and waiting for Sonya to come home and take over looking after the baby.
The coroner noted that Rangimaria appeared to be drinking "significantly more quickly" than her friend and sculling her drinks.
Sonya had walked back to her house at 11.20pm and the four girls has walked to the 13-year-old's aunty Polly Wharepapa's house on Goring St. Wharepapa returned to her house around mid night, fixed herself some food and went to bed. She said she was unaware the two young girls were drinking in her home.
At 12.30am Rangimaria and her13-year-old friend marched off to the afterball party carrying their alcohol. The 13-year-old's older cousin was supposed to go with them but instead stayed with her sister.
They were turned away from the party by adults at the door as they had no ticket.
They then went to a local park where they met other young people who were also drinking.
"[The 13-year-old] was drinking a little but Rangimaria continued to drink a lot, consuming both her alcohol and some of the alcohol that the other young people had bought," the coroner's report said.
No police officer was seen by any witness and by 3am there was no police officer in the local area on duty. The coroner said it should have been easy to anticipate young people would be drinking that night.
Around 3am the two girls st arted to walk home together. They dropped into Wharepapa's home to see who was there. After five minutes they left again.
Her friend was walking a bit faster than Rangimaria. When she didn't hear Rangimaria's footsteps behind her anymore she turned around. She described seeing Rangimaria "comatose" in her dark clothing on the black asphalt road.
Her young friend tried to wake her. Rangimaria vomited before passing out again. Rangimaria was too heavy for the girl to move so she ran to a neighbour's house but no one answered.
She went to get help.
A car drove down the road.
Without braking, it drove over Rangimaria.
Her friend screamed and other young people and neighbours came to help.
"Rangimaria was wearing dark clothing, there was limited street lighting and the residential street had no centreline marked or any other road markings," the coroner stated in the report.
"The v ehicle did not brake prior to making contact with Rangimaria, while slowing down immediately after the collision, it failed to stop. Rangimaria suffered instant and unsurvivable injuries from that collision and she died at the scene."
An extensive police investigation was launched to find the driver, but more than two years later no one has been charged. No paint debris, plastic or metal was left by the vehicle. Police determined that the vehicles must have had a high road clearance like a SUV, ute or small truck.
The coroner was in "no doubt" that the driver would have been aware of the collision and had a responsibility to stop.
Rangimaria's family were unable to get closure as long as the driver remains at large.
The coroner ruled that it was Rangimaria's position in the middle of the road that placed her in harm's way. As even a motorist driving at the speed limit would have struggled to see her before colliding.
No adult had intervened or questioned the young girls' drinking, a responsibility which should have fallen with the 13-year-old's mum Sonya as the only adult at the house, the coroner said.
Rangimaria was naive to the experiences of drinking because alcohol was rarely consumed in her own home. In the coroner's view any adult in a position of responsibility who was aware that Rangimaria and her friend had been drinking should be the subject of a criminal investigation to determine whether they supplied alcohol to them.
"Rangimaria's death was tragically avoidable and she should never have been in that vulnerable state.
"There does not appear to have been any adult who argued against the consumption of alcohol by those under 18 years of age that night.
"What transpired through the rest of the evening paints a picture of an inappropriate attitude to young people consuming alcohol."
The 17-year-old and h er colleague who bought alcohol for the two girls were prosecuted.Source: Google News