Dexter Morgan Barham and his friend Burgundy-Rose Marie Brown died on March 18, 2018.
The deaths of two teenagers – who died after one of them fell asleep at the wheel – will hopefully raise awareness of the dangers of driving having used cannabis and while fatigued, says the coroner.
Dexter Morgan Barham and Burgundy-Rose Marie Brown (who was usually called Rose), both aged 16, died on March 18, 2018 on State Highway 1 (SH1), in Amberley.
They sustained multiple injuries after the white Nissan Silvia that Barham was driving crossed the centre line and collided head-on with another vehicle.
The pair were driving back from Nelson and friends who were travelling in another car had warned Barham he had drifted within his lane and not dipped his headlights when approached by oncoming traffic.
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A report by coroner Sue Johnson said Barham – who attended Shirley Boys’ High School – had worked the night shift at a factory as he was determined to save money for a car. However, as he only held a learner’s licence, his mother told him he had to get his restricted licence before he could purchase a car.
He finished work at 10am on March 17, 2019 and at about midday told his mother that he and his friend were travelling to Nelson to stay at the friend’s family bach.
She checked that his friend had a full licence and that Dexter was going to sleep during the journey, as he had not slept for 24 hours.
In fact, Barham had arranged with friends, including Brown, to go to Nelson to purchase a Nissan car he had seen online.
Barham slept for most of the trip, waking up at about 10pm. While they waited for the owner of the Nissan, he and his friend smoked cannabis.
Barham purchased the Nissan and the group returned to Christchurch. They stopped in Murchison, where Barham was told he had been drifting within his lane. He told his friends he was feeling tired but wanted to continue.
At their second stop at Springs Junction, Barham was again told that he needed to stay in his lane and remember to dip his headlights for oncoming traffic. The group next stopped in Culverden, where Brown got into the back of Barham’s Nissan and fell asleep.
They continued to drive south on State Highway 1. To stay awake, Barham talked to his friend in the front passenger seat, listened to music and kept his window down.
At some stage the front seat passenger also fell asleep. At around 6.20am on March 18, a northbound motorist came to the top of the crest of a hill and saw two headlights on full beam directly in front of them in the northbound lane.
The motorist saw the Nissan make a small correction immediately prior to the collision. Barham’s front seat passenger woke up and grabbed the steering wheel prior to the collision with the northbound vehicle.
Paramedics attended and confirmed that Barham and Brown had both died. Three other people – Barham’s other passenger and two from the oncoming car – were injured.
In her report Johnson recommend that the findings are brought to the media’s attention.
“It is my hope that this will go some way towards preventing further harm to the public.”
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