Fatal fall from deck prompts coroner to recommend regulation change

The woman died in Auckland Hospital.
The woman died in Auckland Hospital. Photo credit: Getty

A coroner is recommending changes to building regulations after an elderly woman died from falling off a deck.

The woman in her 70s died a week after falling from a deck during a weekend getaway on Waiheke Island last year.

She had been spending time with two friends in the lounge of a holiday home, before deciding to got outside for a cigarette late in the evening.

Soon afterwards her friends heard a noise, before finding her some 2 metres away, lying on her side.

She was airlifted to Auckland Hospital, where she later died.

When it was built, the deck was assessed as having a falling distance of about one metre, which included a lawn that down to a retaining wall.

This mean it was not required to have a protective barrier or railing across the front. It did however have railings at the side.

The falling distance, however, did not take into account a second sloping section of lawn, below the retaining wall.

This was where the woman was found with extensive injuries, including several fractured ribs, a broken leg and a broken shoulder blade.

In an inquest, Coroner Borrowdale said her death may have been prevented if the total fall distance was accounted for which would have required a protective barrier.

"When considering making technical improvements to the safety from falling provisions within the F4 standard, the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment should give active consideration as to whether a 'total fall' measurement approach to structures should be expressly prescribed in the standard."

In response, MBIE said it was considering a number of improvements to the provisions and would include Coroner Borrowdale's recommendations in the review.