Truck driver had smoked meth two days before fatal Marlborough crash

Truck driver Gregory Gapper was taken to Wairau Hospital with minor injuries after the crash on March 6. Picton man Gary Kenny died from his injuries at Wellington Hospital.

Scott Hammond/Stuff Truck driver Gregory Gapper was taken to Wairau Hospital with minor injuries after the crash on March 6.

Picton man Gary Kenny died from his injuries at Wellington Hospital.

Sleep deprivation from a midweek meth hit has been blamed for a crash that killed a well-known Picton businessman.

Truck driver Gregory Dennis Ronald Gapper, 42, had smoked methamphetamine two days before he crashed into Gary Kenny’s SUV on the highway between Picton and Blenheim.

The impact of the crash in March this year knocked Kenny’s vehicle into a spin. It rolled two or three times before coming to a stop.

Kenny, the recently retired founder of Kenny Barging, died in Wellington Hospital as a result of his injuries. Gapper was taken to Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, with minor injuries.

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Gapper pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and causing death while driving under the influence of methamphetamine at the Blenheim District Court last week.

He was granted bail, despite opposition from the Crown, so he could start a rehab programme before sentencing.

Kenny Barging founder Gary Mervyn Kenny, 71, died in a crash on State Highway 1 near Koromiko, south of Picton.

Supplied Kenny Barging founder Gary Mervyn Kenny, 71, died in a crash on State Highway 1 near Koromiko, south of Picton.

Gapper also admitted a string of other offences, including posing as a Parole Board employee to get five nights free at a Blenheim lodge and using a work fuel card to fill up his own car.

A police summary of facts said he had been filling up his own car with a work fuel card at the start of the year, and kept doing it for about a month after he crashed into and killed Kenny.

The summary detailed how witnesses saw Gapper driving dangerously before the crash, heading north on State Highway 1 towards Picton about 2pm.

He crossed the centre line twice, causing an oncoming vehicle to swerve onto the far left of its lane, and he overtook a truck-and-trailer carrying logs as they approached a bridge, the summary said.

As Gapper drove through Koromiko, he failed to follow a slight left-hand bend and crossed the centre line, colliding with an oncoming SUV.

Footage from a dashboard camera showed Gapper talking to himself and closing his eyes before impact, the summary said.

The truck scraped along the side of the SUV, crossed the road and crashed into a bank, while the SUV spun anti-clockwise and rolled.

Gary Kenny skippers his barge, the Rongowai, towing a sunken trimaran halved on impact by another boat in 2009.

Scott Hammond/Stuff Gary Kenny skippers his barge, the Rongowai, towing a sunken trimaran halved on impact by another boat in 2009.

Kenny, 71, was cut from the SUV by emergency services, and flown to Wellington Hospital.

He died from his injuries shortly after the crash.

Gapper was taken to Wairau Hospital in Blenheim with minor injuries, where he gave a blood sample which tested positive for methamphetamine.

At first, Gapper said he thought his right tyre had blown which caused him to cross the centre line. But after speaking to his boss, he told police he must have dozed off to sleep, and he did not remember much about the crash.

He had the correct licence for the Class 4 truck, and had taken the correct rest times, the summary said.

When interviewed by police on May 21, Gapper said he had started smoking meth again, around Christmas 2019. He smoked it regularly and would stay awake for two or three days after using it.

He had smoked meth at lunchtime two days before the crash and had not slept properly since, he said.

Traffic queues on State Highway 1 near Koromiko, south of Picton, as emergency services attend the crash.

Scott Hammond/Stuff

Traffic queues on State Highway 1 near Koromiko, south of Picton, as emergency services attend the crash.

He claimed he worked for the Parole Board to get a studio at a Blenheim lodge in August last year, saying his former coworker Curtis Lance Aberhart, 25, needed emergency accommodation for drug rehabilitation.

Gapper had produced a debit card and a Ministry of Social Development payment card, but when they checked out, the bill of £835 charged to the debit card was declined.

Gapper had also used his employer’s fuel cards to refuel his own car, and broke into four other trucks parked overnight to take their fuel cards, using them many times in Picton, Blenheim and Christchurch, and lending them to at least two others.

In total, more than £8523 was spent on the stolen cards, on fuel and other service station items.

In April, he drove into another former employer’s yard to take tie-down chains from a truck-and-trailer, and an air compressor from a shed, worth £3000 in total.

Police had since recovered and returned the items.

Gapper admitted 26 charges of fraudulently using a document and one of burglary, along with the driving charges.

Judge Jo Rielly set a nominal date of December 8, to set a sentencing date in Gapper’s absence.

Stuff