Sophia Crestani's father thanks witness at coronial inquiry

Sophia Crestani's father Bede has thanked a witness who spoke at the coronial inquiry into Sophia's 2019 death.
Sophia Crestani's father Bede has thanked a witness who spoke at the coronial inquiry into Sophia's 2019 death. Photo credit: Newshub.

"You picked up our daughter .... and took her outside to try and save her, thank you."

Sophia Crestani's father, Bede Crestani, became visibly emotional as he thanked Jackson Egerton, a witness who gave evidence at the coronial inquiry into Sophia's 2019 death on Wednesday.

"That's ok, sorry I couldn't be more help," Egerton replied.

Bede then said to him: "You did everything you could - more than most." 

Both of Sophia's parents are taking a leading role questioning witnesses in the coronial inquest in Dunedin.  

The inquest has previously heard Sophia was one of hundreds of people who attended 'Maggot Fest' in October 5, 2019, the last hurrah at a famous Dunedin flat called The Manor, before Otago University took it over.

Sophia was crushed and suffocated in a pile-up at the bottom of the stairs.

Egerton told the inquest he had met up with mates at the party, but he didn't know the tenants.

When he arrived, the party seemed normal but as the night went on it became more crowded.  

As he tried to get down the stairs he yelled out for people to move but no one was going anywhere.  

"I could see people trying to punch doors open." 

"I remember being pushed from behind and apologising to girls in front of me for bumping into them… I was trying to stop it from being so pushy," Egerton told the inquest.

"The next thing I remembered was holding the girl that passed away, I had never met her before."

"The only thing I remember is picking her up… I remember her being unconscious when I picked her up and her going pale and blue." 

Another partygoer helped Egerton carry Sophia out to the footpath before emergency services began CPR.

Another witness said he tried to go downstairs to help when he saw people looking really concerned, and when he got to the bottom he said he "sobered up pretty quick".

"I decided to try and help, but before I could I felt pressure from behind. I fell onto the pile… People fell on top of me and I couldn't get up," he said.

"It was a mess of twisted bodies on the floor and all I could hear was screaming and yelling." 

The witness said he saw Sophia's face under a pile, she looked terrified, vacant, "as if she knew this was going to end badly". 

He reached out to grab her and another girl's hands. 

"I started to panic myself but was having a hard time breathing because of the weight on me." 

That's when police started to arrive. 

"I could see Sophia on the floor not moving." 

Earlier, the inquest heard 400 people had been invited to the party via a private Facebook event.

Plastic had been used to protect the carpet and rooms had been boarded up with wood to protect personal belongings, leaving just three accessible. Several witnesses attest to this being common procedure at student parties in Dunedin.

There was just one door in and out of the property.  

The tenants had previously been contacted by noise control at least 10 times since they'd moved in during February that year.

And they had hosted two other parties and held smaller gatherings, or drinks, most weekends.

The University and a property manager had warned the tenants of several issues, including overcrowding.

The party had been registered on Good One, plus neighbours and Campus Watch had been notified.  

All tenants of The Manor have now given evidence at the inquest which continues on Thursday.