Father charged after crash critically injures girl

By Peter de Graaf -
A 5-year-old girl was critically injured in this crash allegedly caused by her father.
A 5-year-old girl was critically injured in this crash allegedly caused by her father.

A Far North father has been charged with drink-driving causing injury after a crash that left his 5-year-old daughter with critical head injuries.

Billy Atawhaipono Herewini was driving with his 5-year-old twins on January 8 when he rounded a bend of Russell-Whakapara Rd allegedly on the wrong side of the road, colliding with an oncoming ute.

Herewini broke both legs and had to be cut from the wreckage by volunteers of the Russell Fire Brigade. The driver of the ute and male twin were also injured but not seriously.

Herewini's daughter, however, suffered severe head injuries. A young Tutukaka woman, the first person to arrive at the scene, found the child was not breathing. She placed her in the recovery position and cleared her airways, prompting her to start breathing again. The girl was airlifted by the Northland Electricity Rescue Helicopter to Auckland's Starship Hospital, where she remained in the paediatric intensive care unit for several weeks.

The twins normally live with their mother in Kaitaia, but had been visiting Herewini in Waitangi. The 45-year-old was remanded on bail when he appeared in Kaikohe District Court charged with three counts of drink-driving causing injury. He is due back in court on April 16. At last report the girl was speaking again, but faced a long recovery.

A hospital test revealed Herewini allegedly had 122 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80mg.

Police praised the young Tutukaka woman, saying her quick actions may have saved the girl's life.

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