The death of a man who at first seemed to have suffered only moderate injuries in a Mid North crash during the long weekend has pushed Northland's road toll so far this year to three.
Emergency services were called to Ohaeawai about 3.30pm on Monday when a car carrying a holidaying couple from England crossed the centre line of State Highway 1, dropped down a steep bank and came to rest on an old stone wall at Paheke historic homestead.
With volunteer firefighters from Kaikohe, the nearest brigade, occupied with a potentially serious roadside fire on Ngapipito Rd, the first crew to arrive was from Okaihau.
Kaikohe fire chief Bill Hutchinson said the female driver was already out of the vehicle but the male passenger, although not trapped, was unable to get out.
Firefighters removed the door so St John medics could get him into an ambulance. His injuries were described as moderate at the time.
Northland police spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said the 67-year-old man's injuries were not life threatening so he was taken by road to Whangarei Hospital.
However, his condition deteriorated and he died early yesterday morning, about 12 hours after the crash. The driver, aged 69, was uninjured.
Experts from the police Serious Crash Unit carried out a scene examination yesterday.
Police were contacting relatives overseas before releasing the man's name. They would also wait until the investigation was complete before commenting on the possible cause, Mrs Kennett said.
It is believed the couple had been staying at Waipapakauri with family members before heading south.
The man's death brings the provisional Northland toll for the year to date to three. He will be removed from the road death statistics if a post-mortem examination later finds he died of medical causes.
The other fatalities were a 50-year-old Whangarei motorcyclist who crashed near Tangowahine on January 5 and a nine-year-old Auckland boy whose go-kart rolled on Ninety Mile Beach on January 10. Beaches are legal roads so beach crashes count towards the road toll.