Elderly woman dies on busy road

By Hayley Hannan

A large traffic backlog heading towards Wellsford today was caused by a fatal accident in the township this morning. Photo / Sarah Ivey
A large traffic backlog heading towards Wellsford today was caused by a fatal accident in the township this morning. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A doctor and nurse ran onto the road to try to save an elderly woman who was lying face down, surrounded by blood, after being hit by a passing car in Northland today.

The woman, thought to be in her 80s, was injured while crossing State Highway 1 at the intersection with Matheson Rd in Wellsford.

She suffered critical head, leg and general body injuries, and died hours after she was airlifted to Auckland Hospital.

The short-haired pensioner was seen walking out onto the road, aided by her pink walking stick, and was not near a pedestrian crossing, say witnesses.

Ambulance and police were called to the scene at about 9:17am, and quickly worked with locals to redirect traffic and assess the incident.

The busy road sees a steady stream of traffic flowing through the town to northern holiday destinations.

Adele Dick was alerted to the incident when children playing on the road sang out "Grandma, Grandma, there's been somebody hit.''

She stood behind her fence to see the elderly woman lying motionless in the north-bound lane of the road.

"She had been hit. When I looked down she was already lying on the road, face down and the lady out of the car was sitting there beside her.''

The car occupant was crouched down trying to talk to the "frail'' elderly woman, who was totally unresponsive, she said.

A large surrounding area was covered in blood, and the short-haired victim had a badly gouged leg: "She was hit hard, and it amazed me she lasted that long. Poor old thing.''

The black car involved in the accident had a cracked and broken windscreen, and was towed from the scene by a nearby towing company.

John Pattan, who also lives on Rodney St, helped redirect traffic as the victim lay with blood trickling from her head, he said.

"I think she misjudged something, because she crossed on the widest side of the road. I think the driver had no chance of avoiding her. And according to the witness, that's what she said too.''

A doctor and nurse from the nearby Wellsford Medical Centre ran out onto the road to help paramedics, Mr Pattan said.

The victim was hoisted onto a stretcher by paramedics and airlifted from Centennial Park to Auckland Hospital by the Westpac rescue helicopter.

Marcel Driessen, a St John intensive care paramedic aboard the helicopter, said the woman remained quiet while being transported. She suffered from serious head and leg injuries and had bruises and lacerations across her body, he said.

The woman carried no identification on her and was thought to be in her 80s. It was suggested she was a local.

A woman working in a nearby store said she imagined only a local would attempt to cross the road at that point.

She initially thought two cars had collided, but realised what had happened when she saw paramedics lifting the victim onto a stretcher.

"I could only see her from her thighs down, just half of her. I wondered `are they rushing, or is she already gone?'. It's terrible,'' she said.

"There were so many people here ... the poor thing, so sad.''

Local pharmacy worker Mary said there was "usually lots of little old ladies round about this time of year who go for lots of walks.''

The scene was cordoned off and diversions put in place until 12:30pm as the Serious Crash Unit carried out a full investigation.

Hours after the accident, the spot where the woman was hit was marked with orange spray paint. A heavy flow of northbound holiday traffic continued to move through the area, oblivious to the tragedy.

The police Serious Crash Unit had spoken to a "cooperative'' driver involved in the crash and to a number of witnesses, said police northern communications Inspector Peter Raynes.

The driver remained at the scene until early afternoon.

Mr Raynes said it was too early to say whether charges would be laid, or what caused the accident.

The New Zealand Transport Agency would decide whether the death contributed to the holiday road toll, he said.

The official road toll period began at 4pm on Friday and ends at 6am on January 4. By the end of Boxing Day, it stood at six. Last year 12 people died during the period.

Another person died in a two-car collision on the Desert Road this afternoon, while a three-year-old child is in serious condition after being struck by a four-wheel-drive near Levin this morning.

Additional reporting by Anna Leask

- APNZ

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