Police withhold details on mystery Q'town tourist crash

by Lauren Pattemore - Feb 08, 2023

It's still unclear if an American tourist that fled the country after driving on the wrong side of Frankton Road causing a crash was ever charged by police, but we do know they failed to tell the rental car company of the accident. 

Crux has been chasing comment from both the police and Avis Car Rentals for two days, after our report from Queenstown resident Sara Duan on the crash, which left her with a broken back.

Ms Duan has told Crux she was driving to work at 5am on the morning of January 27, when a vehicle came towards her driving on the wrong side of the road.

Crux has seen sections of a police report on the incident, which confirms her recollection of what happened, saying the male driver of the other car was leaving Oaks Shore Hotel just before 5am and was “in the incorrect lane after exiting the hotel”. 

The other driver was “not used to driving on New Zealand roads" and "got the lanes confused", which caused the accident, the report says.

As a result of the head-on collision, the back of one vehicle was pushed up onto the footpath due to the impact, while the other was pushed into a median barrier in the middle of the road, the report says.

The report also details Ms Duan’s blood alcohol level – she says she remembers having this taken at the scene, although she was too shaken up to undergo a breathalyser test.

“I had trouble breathing so the police couldn’t breath test me and had to do (a) blood test instead, which took three days to get the result,” Ms Duan says.

The police report confirms her result: NIL/100 according to the ESR's analysis.

But there's nothing in the parts of the report seen by Crux to indicate the American driver also had their blood alcohol level tested.

Likewise, there's no reference to the tourist being charged, only a comment that the "driver will be charged".

From correspondence between an Avis staff member and Ms Duan, seen by Crux, it appears the driver did not tell Avis about the accident when they handed the vehicle keys off at the Auckland branch the same day as the accident - days earlier than arranged for at the time of booking.

The driver had flown from Queenstown to Auckland with the car keys after somehow getting from the crash scene to Queenstown airport.

The Avis messages detail that the driver was supposed to return the car to the Auckland branch, but instead told staff the vehicle was in Queenstown.

As Crux understands, the badly damaged vehicle was towed from the Queenstown accident scene to Cromwell. Avis discovered its whereabouts on Thursday, February 2 – almost one week after the accident.

They subsequently contacted the overseas driver, who admitted to the accident.

Yesterday Crux reported someone at the Queenstown police station had informed Ms Duan that they'd been unable to track down the driver, due to incorrect contact details being given to them at the scene.

Again, Crux has repeatedly approached police - both at their Queenstown station and through their national media centre -  for further information.

Ms Duan says that Avis has been helpful in lodging her claim after they found out the information about the accident. Her claim is being processed and she is waiting to see if she will receive compensation for her vehicle, which was written off in the crash.

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