‘I thought I was going to die’: Partygoer recalls terrifying crash

‘I thought I was going to die’: Partygoer recalls terrifying crash

A witness involved in the crash where Sophia Crestani died said the party was “the worst night of my life.”

Coroner Heather McKenzie’s inquest into the 19-year-old’s death continued in Dunedin yesterday.

Miss Crestani died in a crash on stairs in 2019 at a flat party called “Maggot Fest”, to which 400 people were invited via Facebook.

Since then, his parents, Elspeth McMillan and Bede Crestani, have advocated for safe student behavior in Dunedin.

A witness, whose name has been provisionally withheld, attended the party at the apartment known as “The Manor” and said he saw Miss Crestani’s face next to her at the bottom of the crash.

Mr. Crestani thanked the witness for his assistance.

“I’m sorry it’s not Sophia,” he said.

“Also,” he replied.

The witness initially explained that she did not enter the house because “it seemed too full.”

After spending some time inside, he attempted to leave the overcrowded house but fell to the ground from the stairs.

“I could see another female face, I think it was Sophia,” he said.

The witness broke down crying at times during her testimony.

“I was terrified and couldn’t move,” she said.

“As things got worse, I couldn’t see anything, it was pitch black.”

Mrs McMillan asked the witness how the night had affected her.

“It was the worst night of my life, by far,” the witness responded.

“I thought I was going to die.”

Samson Aruwa explained that people were trying to go up the stairs while people were trying to go down.

“There’s no way this can work,” he thought.

He helped get people out of the pile, but it was difficult as people were walking over the fallen bodies and still trying to get into the house.

“I didn’t think it was going to be a long or major problem,” he said.

Aruwa explained that if people had moved, the pile would probably have eased more quickly.

The witness thought he was helping clean up the pile for at least 15 minutes.

“No matter how many people we took out, the pile just got bigger and bigger,” he said.

“The pile was endless.”

He helped carry Miss Crestani to safety and believed her neck was broken when he picked her up.

The witness recalled someone saying “Holy shit, she’s dead.”

McMillan thanked Aruwa for helping people in the crash and believed more people would have been injured if not for his actions.

“To our family, you are an absolute hero,” McMillan said.

“We will be eternally grateful.”

The court heard Mr Aruwa was a pallbearer at Miss Crestani’s funeral.

Another partygoer, Fanatanu Tuivaiti, was inside “The Manor” but was outside during the crash.

“If one person moved, everyone moved,” he said.

He saw someone trying to lift Miss Crestani and ran inside to help.

The witness and another man took her outside and emergency responders began performing CPR.

“I heard someone say there was no pulse,” he said.

The inquest will continue this afternoon and more party-goers are expected to give evidence.

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