Widower Svetlozar Kralev, speaking from Sofia, Bulgaria, told the Herald, ‘I am not happy with [the coroner’s] finding. I don’t agree – I definitely don’t agree with it.’ Photo / Hayden Woodward
The widower of a devoted mother killed when her own van rolled and knocked her to the ground says he is dissatisfied with the coroner’s findings on his wife’s death.
The coroner issued a warning to motorists after ruling on the death of Krasimira Kraleva, who died after leaving the handbrake of her van off on October 14 2020.
Widower Svetlozar Kralev, speaking from Sofia in Bulgaria, told the Herald, “I am not happy with that finding. I don’t agree – I definitely don’t agree with it.”
“I am half the man I was before she died. I can feel that gap in my heart and I need some clear answers.”
Kralev said he would return to Auckland in October, the three-year anniversary of his wife’s death, and would do everything he could to satisfy his doubts about the incident.
Kraleva, 52, died from blunt force injuries to her torso, leaving behind two children and her husband.
An obituary published in the Herald on October 17 2020 called Kraleva “a much-devoted mother” and a “dearly loved wife”.
“In our hearts forever, we will miss and love you always,” the notice read.
She was visiting a client in Massey in her capacity as a curtain maker and style consultant when she died.
Kraleva parked in a driveway and walked down to meet her client when “unbeknownst to her”, coroner Alison Mills said, “the van starting rolling down the driveway towards her”.
“[It] knock[ed] her to the ground and trapp[ed] her underneath. [Kraleva] died at the scene as a result of her injuries,” Mills said.
During the coroner’s inquest, Kralev questioned witnesses on how a fully loaded van could have rolled without his wife realising.
Kralev also questioned how it could have stayed stationary for long enough on the sloping driveway for his wife to get behind it.
Speaking this evening, Kralev continued to question the cause of the tragedy.
“They call it a freak accident and they continue to quote the theory my wife is responsible for her own death.
“I parked the car in front of our house and the handbrake was pretty weak. I told my wife that it’s not good to drive this car in these conditions.”
Kralev said: “I think the coroner did her job well, and she was well engaged with the case. But with the police statement – there was not enough evidence my wife is the cause of her own death.
“There is no clear evidence of what happened. If you go through all the documents, as I did, you see it’s crazy you could stop the car on a steep driveway, get out, walk about 10m behind it and only then it would start rolling.”
He claimed police told him during their investigations they “didn’t have enough resources to continue their research and test the car”.
Senior Constable Gary Abbott, the crash investigator who arrived at the scene, told the coroner Kraleva was found with the van’s key next to her on the ground.
From the evidence, Abbott said, she left the van in drive and the handbrake off, removed the key from the ignition and walked to the back of the vehicle.
Abbott said an inspection of the van found there were no issues with the handbrake: “If you engaged it, it stayed on.”
Mills considered what recommendations to make to reduce deaths from similar circumstances.
“Ultimately, I consider it largely to be a matter of driver education,” she said.
“There are so many variables and ongoing changes to technology that I do not consider it practical to make specific technical recommendations.
“I note the use of the handbrake is already included in the Road Code study guide published by Waka Kotahi [NZTA] and other learn-to-drive resources,” Mills said.
Mills said it was easy for people to forget to do things “like engaging the handbrake” in busy situations or if they were distracted.
“I therefore simply remind people that:
- “If you have an automatic gearbox, apply the handbrake first, then put it in P “park” prior to exiting your vehicle.
- “If you have a manual gearbox, apply the handbrake then put the gearbox in neutral on flat ground, reverse if you are parked facing downhill, or first if you are parked facing uphill. If the handbrake fails, or it wasn’t applied tightly enough, the resistance from the engine will stop it rolling on the hill.
- “In addition, if you are driving a car you are unfamiliar with, ensure you familiarise yourself with how it operates prior to driving.”
Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.