Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Xmas road toll already half of last year's

The busy route between Welcome Bay and Papamoa was closed as police from the serious crash unit investigated the cause of the collision. Photo / Alan Gibson
The busy route between Welcome Bay and Papamoa was closed as police from the serious crash unit investigated the cause of the collision. Photo / Alan Gibson

A courier van driver who fatally ran over a pedestrian had to flee the scene for fear of his safety after being set upon by angry family members, say police.

The woman's death on State Highway 1 in Waikato has pushed the holiday road toll to six after the first weekend.

The official road toll period began at 4pm on Friday and ends at 6am on January 4, and last year saw 12 die during the period.

The 52-year-old woman, was hit on State Highway 1 in Horotiu, north of Hamilton at about 9:30pm on Christmas day.

She was left in a life-threatening condition, and later died.

District road policing manager Leo Tooman said serious crash unit investigators were still working to find out what lead to the crash.

"It appears a man and a woman left a family function in a vehicle a short distance away and for some reason the car has stopped and parked up on the northbound safety shoulder.

"The man and woman have exited the vehicle and the 52-year-old woman appears to have strayed into the northbound lane of SH1 where she was struck by an oncoming courier van, suffering fatal injuries.''

Mr Tooman said the driver of the van initially stopped at the scene but when confronted by angry relatives of the deceased fled a short distance for his own safety.

"On the arrival of Police the driver has presented himself to them and was interviewed, alcohol and speed were not factors on the part of the courier van driver and conditions at the time of the crash were fine and dry."

He said last night's incident would be traumatic for both the family of the deceased and the party driving the courier van.

Mr Tooman said unlike the rest of the country which is experiencing a record drop in the number of road fatalities this year the number of deaths on Waikato roads continues to climb.

A total of nine pedestrians had now died on Waikato roads this year, and the district's road toll of 52 topped last year's 48 for the whole year.

Last Wednesday, police released figures showing 269 people had been killed by that stage on the roads in 2011 - on track to what would have been the lowest toll since the 272 in 1962.

The six deaths since then have lifted the toll to 275.

Latest fatality

Earlier today a man died when his car went down a bank on Gebbies Pass Road in Christchurch.

He died at the scene and his identity is yet to be confirmed.

No-one else was in the car and early indications suggest no other vehicle was involved.

Serious Crash Unit staff are at the scene investigating.

The accident doesn't form part of the official road toll, as the incident was related to "other causes" according to a police spokeswoman.

Teen sisters killed

Two teenage sisters were killed in a Christmas Day car crash after a speeding car passed another on Welcome Bay Rd and collided head-on with a third vehicle.

Of the seven injured who survived the crash, four - including a toddler - were taken to Tauranga Hospital after the crash at about 4.20pm yesterday.

The sisters were aged just 13 and 14.

The crash impact forced a red Mitsubishi ute - with just the driver inside - to roll on its roof.

Distraught survivors emerged from the wreckage of the other vehicle crying and wailing, joined soon after by relatives who live nearby.

Grieving family members, including the girls' father, leaned against cars, weeping and embracing one other, as emergency services worked to clear the accident scene.

One of the survivors had earlier emerged from the wreckage with a child in his arms.

The busy route between Welcome Bay and Papamoa was closed between Waitao Rd and Kairua Rd as the serious crash unit investigated.

A woman who lives on Welcome Bay Rd said she saw a vehicle "race'' past her house on a straight stretch of road and start to pass another vehicle heading towards Papamoa.

"Then I just heard a horrific crash.''

She said the speeding vehicle had crossed the yellow line in the middle of the road and slammed into the ute.

"The other car just didn't stand a chance,'' said the woman, who had just finished dinner with her family.

"We were all shaking ... After a lovely Christmas, it's absolutely horrible. It leaves you absolutely shaken, but it's hideous driving that caused it.''

Christmas Day sadness for families

Soon after noon on Christmas Eve, a man was killed when a car ran off the road and into the Avon River in Christchurch.

Police say 20-year-old Daniel James Mercer lost control of the car.

About 6.45pm that day in South Canterbury, Gareth Toby Waller, 29, died when his vehicle left Burdon Rd, near Geraldine, and rolled into the Waihi River.

Mr Waller is understood to have worked for the family business, Waller Direct Drilling.

A third fatality on Saturday occurred in Taranaki when a car and light truck collided on State Highway 3, south of Waitara, killing a woman in the car. Two people in the truck were uninjured.

A fatal crash in Waiuku, south of Auckland, about 8am on Christmas Eve has been excluded from the official total because it was a result of medical rather than driving-related reasons.

The driver was flung from a car that drifted off the road and hit a tree.

In other serious crashes on Saturday, five people were hurt - one seriously - in a late afternoon collision between two cars on State Highway 1 at Kawakawa in the Far North.

And a woman suffered multiple injuries in a crash on State Highway 80 near Aoraki/Mt Cook about 4.30pm.

She was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital and last night was in a serious but stable condition.

Two other people were airlifted to hospitals in Christchurch and Timaru with multiple moderate injuries.

- NZ Herald

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