Singapore

New Zealand coroner warns of driver fatigue citing 2017 crash that killed Singaporeans

Just hours after an overnight flight to New Zealand, a young Singaporean couple hired a camper van and drove off.

But less than three hours later, Mr Chin Tze Hau, 38, and his wife, Ms Ong See Yee, 29, were killed in a head-on collision with another vehicle on a highway.

"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," said NZ Coroner Anna Tutton in her updated report issued last month.

"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," she said based on her finding last October.

The couple died on the spot on State Highway 1 near Bankside, about 40km south of Christchurch, on May 4, 2017, from very high energy impact injuries to their heads and upper bodies. The truck driver sustained an arm injury.

The pair had arrived at Christchurch Airport at about 8.30am that day on a flight from Singapore that took just shy of 10 hours.

Two hours after arriving, at around 10.30am, they hired the camper van and set out on their journey on the road.

At about 1pm, the vehicle driven by Mr Chin drifted off the road, and as he tried to steer it back, it rolled onto its side and collided with the oncoming "ute" - a utility vehicle similar to a pickup truck.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has advised that the only cure for fatigue is to stop and get a good night's sleep, said Coroner Tutton.

"Where stopping overnight is not practical, a break every two hours, or every 100km, should be incorporated into the journey," the coroner said in her report, citing the NZTA.

A report in The Straits Times at the time of the tragedy said the couple had been married for six years and flew to New Zealand for a 10-day trip to mark Ms Ong's 29th birthday. Mr Chin Tze Hau was then spelt as Chen Zhi Hao in the report.

Both husband and wife worked at an audio-visual product company in Kaki Bukit where Mr Chin was a technical director and Ms Ong an operations executive.

Mr Chin was described as adventurous and someone who loved to travel, while Ms Ong was said to be easy-going and a good friend.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

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