Help sought after 'horrific' crash

By NZ Herald, APNZ

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

Detectives investigating the deaths of two young sisters in a Christmas Day car smash in Tauranga would like to hear from the public about the activities of three cars in the area.

The 13 and 14-year-old sisters were killed when a speeding car passed another on Welcome Bay Rd and collided head-on with a third vehicle at about 4.20pm.

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

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.''

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner said police are particularly interested in speaking to any member of the public who may have seen the activities of three motor vehicles, a maroon Honda, a black Mitsubishi Lancer and a blue Honda in the Welcome Bay Area and on Welcome Bay Road between 3.30pm and 4.30 pm on Christmas Day.

Mr Turner emphasised it was too early to say what, if any, involvement these vehicles had had in the accident.

A courier van driver who fatally ran over a pedestrian, on State Highway 1 in Waikato, had to flee the scene for fear of his safety after being set upon by angry family members.

The 52-year-old woman was hit 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 led 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.

"Our staff are out there, working alongside other emergency services, trying to save lives but we would rather prevent road trauma from occurring and to do that we need your help.''

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.

Mr Tooman said police are pleading for help from the public to keep the road toll down.

"We need friends, family and passengers of people intending to drive drunk to say it's not ok. We need people to stand up and be counted and say excessive speed is also not ok and we all need to show a bit of patience on our roads at a time of very heavy traffic volumes,'' he said.

Earlier today (Monday) 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.

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.

The official road toll period began at 4pm on Friday and ends at 6am on January 4. Last year 12 people died during the period.

This year's official holiday road toll stands at six.

- NZ Herald

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