Officer Denies Texting In Fatal Crash

A police officer has denied he was texting when the patrol car he was driving hit and killed a 16-year-old youth in Northland in 2009.

Counsel for the family of Rawiri Wilson – who died at the scene – told a Whangarei inquest today cellphone records showed that Constable Jamie Taumata Anderson, of Kaikohe, was sent a text message just 23 seconds before hitting the teenager at Ohaeawai, 11km northeast of Kaikohe, late one night.

Mr Wilson and friends had been at a social function and were walking home on State Highway 1 on a cold and dark night when two of them were struck from behind.

They were both wearing dark clothes.

A distraught Mr Anderson – who was at times in tears when giving evidence – said he was certain that he was not texting at the time of the crash. This was backed up by Constable Roger Dephoff, who was also in the car.

At the time of the crash, there was no prohibition on drivers texting from a moving vehicle.

Mr Dephoff recalled Mr Anderson texting earlier during their patrol.

“I recall saying to Jimmy after the crash, ‘you weren’t texting, were you, Jimmy?’

“He looked straight at me and said: ‘no’,” Mr Dephoff said.

Mr Anderson was adamant that he did not send or receive any texts after leaving the township of Ohaeawai.

He said that the patrol car, with lights on dip, came down a sweeping hill, and suddenly he saw something that he thought was a leg in the middle of the lane. He swerved to the right, but hit Mr Wilson.

“It happened so quick,” he told the coroner.

The car also clipped another youth, who fell into a ditch.

“I was shocked, just really shocked,” Mr Anderson told coroner Garry Evans.

He also said that he had difficulties recalling the sequence of events, but was attacked by a third young male who screamed: “That’s my brother”.

Mr Anderson said he did not know whether the outcome would had been any different had he been driving on full beam.

He had no explanation as to why his headlights were dipped on the open highway on a dark night with no street lighting or approaching vehicles.

The coroner asked him about driving skills taught at the police college and was told that no particular training was given for night driving.

Mr Evans reserved his decisions which will be handed down in writing.

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