Smash kills fire volunteer

By Imran Ali

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A close-knit Northland community is stunned by the loss of a fire volunteer who died in a road crash in which her partner and two young children were also injured.

Both children are in Auckland's Starship hospital, the 10-year-old girl in a critical condition and her 2-year-old brother stable but with head injuries.

Anne Talijancich, a non-operational support officer at the Te Kopuru volunteer fire brigade, was a passenger in a car driven by her partner Kevin Rowland when the vehicle clipped the end of a bridge on Saturday afternoon.

The weather was fine and road dry when the crash happened on Pouto Rd, about 11km south-east of Te Kopuru, just before 4pm.

Rescue helicopters from Northland and Auckland were called, with 10-year-old Malia flown to Starship hospital while her little brother Bucko and Mr Rowland were taken by ambulance to Whangarei Hospital.

Bucko was later flown to Starship with a fractured skull. Malia remained in a critical condition yesterday.

Mr Rowland was discharged from Whangarei Hospital on Saturday and is understood to be with the children.

Two ambulances, two fire crews from Te Kopuru and one from Dargaville attended the scene, with the Te Kopuru crews shocked to discover their colleague Ms Talijancich in the car.

Chief fire officer Kevin Morgan said Ms Talijancich lived next to the fire station and was usually the first to help with crew deployment during a callout. She had been with the brigade for about seven years.

"Our thoughts are with the family ... see how they go. Everyone here is concentrating on the kids and their recovery.

"Three or four members of our brigade are immediate family members so that's the sort of impact this has had on us and the community at large." Mr Morgan said with Ms Talijancich's children still in a critical condition, funeral arrangements were some days away.

A post on the brigade's Facebook page read: "Today we lost one of our own. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and brigade members." The message was accompanied by a picture of the New Zealand flag at half-mast outside the rural station.

Te Kopuru farmer Bill Guest, whose farm is near the crash site, said Ms Talijancich's death was a blow to the small community. "They're a tight bunch made up of two or three families ... what happened on Saturday is very sad," he said.

The police Serious Crash Unit is investigating the crash.

- Northern Advocate

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