Christmas death: Police track banned driver

By Andrew Koubaridis, Natalie Akoorie

The car in which a 71-year-old woman died was pushed on to a traffic island when it and a four-wheel-drive vehicle collided. Photo / Natalie Akoorie
The car in which a 71-year-old woman died was pushed on to a traffic island when it and a four-wheel-drive vehicle collided. Photo / Natalie Akoorie

A woman on a suspended driver's licence allegedly fled the scene of a crash which killed a 71-year-old woman who was travelling with her family on Christmas Day.

Police have commended a member of the public who saw the crash and followed the 26-year-old driver, updating police on her whereabouts as he drove.

The elderly woman died after a Mitsubishi Colt in which she was a backseat passenger and a Toyota 4WD collided at the intersection of Avalon Dr and Te Rapa Rd inHamilton.

Four of her family members, including a child, were taken to Waikato Hospital with minor injuries.

She became the first road fatality of the official holiday period, which started at 4pm on Christmas Eve.

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Marcus Lynam said emergency services were called to the scene about 12.35pm.

Mr Lynam said a member of the public phoned 111 and said he was following the driver of the 4WD as it left the scene.

"It was recovered by police at a Pukete address a short time later, thanks to the assistance of that member of the public.

"Since then a suspended female driver, believed to be aged 26, has been located by police and this person and the driver of the other car will be interviewed."

Mr Lynam said it was too early to say if any charges would be laid.

"This crash brings the Waikato police district's road toll to 45 [for the year], and it is the second Christmas in a row that emergency services have been called out to deal with a fatality on a day that is supposed to be about celebration."

Police said it appeared the Mitsubishi was t-boned by the 4WD as it turned north on to State Highway 1 at the intersection, which is controlled by traffic lights.

The Mitsubishi was shunted on to a traffic island.

Elsewhere, two Wairarapa men survived a 20m plummet down a bank in their 4WD, which was found by a farmer in a paddock in Carterton early yesterday morning.

One man was trapped and both were seriously injured.

By Boxing Day last year, five people had lost their lives on New Zealand roads.

Nineteen people died over the full Christmas period.

National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said he felt like a broken record when talking about road safety.

"The message is to watch speed - we have a reduced tolerance [to speed] which runs to January 7."

He said the other message was to choose the driver wisely.

"This year we've seen a big increase in the number of passengers killed, and what's especially important is to make sure there's a designated driver early in the night and don't get into a car with a driver who has been drinking."

The number of people dying on the roads was unacceptable.

"For the families who have lost loved ones ... Christmas will never be the same again. The numbers each year [dying in car accidents] is around 300 people. If we slammed a jet into the ground and killed 300 people, we just wouldn't accept it.

"You don't accept any deaths when using air as a transport method yet we seem to be quite accepting of the number of deaths in cars."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 22 Oct 2014 21:41:29 Processing Time: 423ms