Arthur Tepania, Yvarn’s father, previously told Stuff about the heartbreak he felt in the wake of the crash.
April 3, 2018 was a day like any other for Arthur Tepania. He woke up early, caught the train to Auckland’s Ōtāhuhu and made it to work by 7am.
But then came the phone call that changed his life forever. His son, 24-year-old Yvarn Tepania and nephew, 26-year-old James Hamiora, had died in a car crash in the Far North the night before.
Now, more than five years later, the police watchdog has released their report into the “serious deficiencies” that caused the police investigation into the double-fatal crash to collapse.
The crash took place in the southbound lane of State Highway 10 near Kerikeri, when a red Subaru travelling south and a silver Toyota travelling north collided, the Independent Police Conduct Authority’s Report said.
Tepania had been driving the Subaru with Hamiora in the passenger’s seat at the time of the crash. Both died at the scene.
Two passengers in the back seat of the Subaru were also seriously injured in the collision.
They alleged that Berger had been driving in the wrong lane at the time of the crash – but Berger applied to have these charges dismissed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
Four working days before the Dismissal of Charges hearing, Berger’s lawyer submitted new statements from the Subaru passengers which stated that it was their friend, Tepania, who caused the crash.
A toxicology report also found that Tepania’s blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit and methamphetamine was also found in his blood.
At the hearing on May 28, the Judge then dismissed all charges against Berger, and he was awarded $30,000 for full indemnity costs.
While the IPCA ruled that the police’s decision to charge Berger was justified, the report released on Thursday morning found that “their subsequent decision to escalate the charges from ‘careless’ to ‘aggravated’ was not”.
“Despite the inherent constraints of working in a rural station, the onus was on the officer in charge of the investigation to seek assistance when he recognised the job was beyond his capabilities,” the report said.
Acting Northland District Commander, Inspector Dion Bennett, said that police “acknowledge and accept the findings of the IPCA report”.
“We understand the impact these tragic events have had on the families involved and accept responsibility for our role in this situation,” Bennett said.
NZ Police has since made changes to their serious crash investigations, including recruiting more staff into the Far North area and providing more training around interviewing people involved in crashes, he said.