James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Our deadliest roads

Friends grieve in front of a memorial dedicated to college students  Dylan Perkinson and Vance Williams who died in a horror car smash  near Waihi last January. Picture / Alan Gibson
Friends grieve in front of a memorial dedicated to college students Dylan Perkinson and Vance Williams who died in a horror car smash near Waihi last January. Picture / Alan Gibson

In a year when the national road toll fell dramatically, the carnage on Waikato roads actually increased. James Ihaka recounts the lives lost and the search for reasons why.

This time last year, a horrific crash sent shockwaves through a community.

Dylan Perkinson and Vance Williams died in a high speed collision, along with decorated soldier Mark Sydney who was 10 minutes from home just before midnight on January 21.

In the wreckage of the teens' Subaru, which crossed the centre line and slid sideways into the path of Sydney's Nissan, police found a Waikato Draught beer box and remnants of cans of a pre-mixed bourbon drink.

A coroner's report revealed the bodies of Perkinson and Williams had been thrown from the car and were hit by following vehicles. Coroner Peter Ryan said he could not be sure if the driver was Perkinson, who was over the limit, or Williams, who was sober.

The crash was not the only fatal collision on Waikato roads last year to shock locals and make national headlines.

On September 8 Eunice Griffiths and her passenger Vina Wills were killed instantly when the elderly Griffiths drove the wrong way on State Highway 1 near Ohinewai and collided with a southbound car.

Rachel Wallace was taking her 3-year-old son Lochie to kindergarten when their car was crushed under a logging truck near Huntly on November 25.

Altogether 52 people died in 44 crashes in the Waikato police district - an increase on the 48 killed in 2010 and an aberration when the national road toll dropped to 284, the lowest since 1952.

Waikato road policing manager Leo Tooman said it was frustrating to see the region's road toll buck the declining national trend.

"The unfortunate part about it is in Waikato we haven't been part of that reduction, but then again it's a place everyone has to go through it if you want to go anywhere."

Tooman said it was disappointing that drivers in the 40 to 60 age bracket were "set in their ways" and bad choices were being made around alcohol.

He said the onus fell on everyone, from police to the community, to play a role in road safety if the road toll was going to come down.

"Speed must be kept down, people must belt up - probably a number of people who died last year would have survived if they had belts on - and stay off the booze while driving."

A year of death in the Waikato

January 2
1. Sean Coe, 20, died in Waikato Hospital following a collision on State Highway 1 between a car and a van at Horotiu, just north of Hamilton, on New Year's Day.

Coe was a passenger in the car and the van was carrying five disabled children.

Police said speed, alcohol and driver fatigue appeared to have been factors.

2. Mark Gerard Egbers, 48, of Auckland, died when his motorcycle collided with another about 12.55pm on the winding State Highway 25 that crosses the Coromandel Peninsula.

The rider of the second bike, a 31-year-old Auckland man, was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

January 21
3. An elderly Hamilton man died 10 days after running a red light in the Frankton business district.

Murray Hirst, 84, died in Waikato Hospital from injuries he received in a crash at the intersection of Kent and Hall Streets on January 10.

January 22
4. Waihi College students Dylan Perkinson, 17, and Vance Williams, 16, were killed when their car collided with another driven by decorated soldier Mark Sydney, 45, who also died at the scene.

Perkinson was driving on a restricted licence, not wearing a seatbelt, speeding and on the wrong side of the road, police said.

Among the wreckage was a Waikato Draught beer box and remnants of cans of a pre-mixed bourbon drink.

January 23
5. A toddler was revived by members of the public at the scene of a head-on crash in Waikato but later died in hospital.

Samuel Tonkin, 2, of Auckland, stopped breathing after the vehicle he was in collided with another on State Highway 2 near Maramarua.

January 24
6. Raglan osteopath Julia Borgoo, 29, was heading towards Hamilton on State Highway 23 at Te Uku when her vehicle collided head-on with a Mitsubishi car. Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said it appeared the woman lost control while rounding a slight right-hand bend, and her car hit the Mitsubishi, seriously injuring the male and female occupants.

7. About four hours later, an American tourist, Mark Savage, 58, died after the Toyota Astina he was driving collided head-on with a Mazda 6 station wagon on State Highway 25, near Whitianga.

February 9
8. Patrick John Wallbank, 62, was heading home on State Highway 39, Ngaruawahia, when his ute became trapped between the cab and trailer of a truck carrying fertiliser which lost control on a corner. Wallbank, a quarry manager, died on the day his first grandchild was born.

February 20
9. A trip to Hamilton for an indoor netball game ended in tragedy for Rose-Ana Leigh Mitchell-Kingi, 21, and Eruera Eriata Munroe, 22. The pair were two of four people in a car heading back to Tauranga after their game when their Volkswagen hatchback was hit by a Honda travelling on the wrong side of State Highway 29, near Piarere.

March 11
10. Margaret Cubis died when her car collided with a truck on State Highway 1 near Cambridge.

11. Visiting Canadian tourist Cameron Chad Adrian, 19, of Alberta died when his car collided with a flatbed truck near Karapiro.

Police said it appeared the car driven by Adrian had crossed the centre line in front of the truck.

March 29
12. Kelvin Anthony McDonnell, 16, of Te Awamutu, who was on a learner's licence, was on his way to Hamilton when he tried to overtake a ute near Ngahinapouri.

His car collided with the ute before striking loose gravel. The vehicle then went off the road, off a bank and somersaulted several metres in the air before landing on its roof. He died at the scene.

March 31
13. Wayne Connelly, 50, died when he lost control of a utility vehicle that rolled across the road two to three times while heading toward Athenree.

The male front seat passenger in the vehicle was cut free by Waihi Volunteer Fire Brigade members.

April 16
14. A tattoo etched across the neck of James Wells serves as a poignant reminder of the day he killed his best mate. Wells, 20, was driving without a licence when he crashed at speed on Normandy Ave, killing his friend Dion Kurupo, 18. Wells pleaded guilty to being an unlicensed driver and careless driving causing death. He was sentenced to six months' home detention and ordered to complete 200 hours' community work. He was also fined $1500 and disqualified from driving for eight months.

May 4
15. Bruce Graeme McCallum, 69, from Thames was killed after the car he was travelling in crashed into the back of a stationary truck of State Highway 2, north of Okaeria Rd.

Police said the fertiliser truck was heading north along State Highway 2 when the driver stopped to allow a vehicle with a wide load, travelling south, to turn.

May 7
16. A mother of two killed by a passing vehicle in Matamata was thriving in her new job as a chef, said distraught friends and colleagues. The body of Catherine Matson, 43, was found on the verge of State Highway 24 near Matamata. Police said she was wearing dark clothing. Her body was found by a passing truck driver.

May 11
17. Banned driver Vinnie Pearson, 20, died when his car crashed into a tree on Trig Rd, south of Waihi. Pearson did not hold a driver's licence and was forbidden to drive in 2008.

18. Jocelyn Margaret Banks, 91, of Hamilton was crossing the north end of Victoria St in peak traffic at 4.45pm on her way to catch a bus, when she was hit by a car. Police arrived at the scene to find Banks seriously injured and she died overnight in Waikato Hospital.

May 17
19. An elderly woman died after being struck down by a car on Hamilton's Victoria St. She was Mary Hunter Clark, 81, of Dunedin.

May 28
20. Hamilton Boys' High School student Shaun Nilson, 17, was a passenger in a car being driven by Levi Elliott when they crashed into a power pole flinging him from the vehicle. Elliott, then 16 and on a restricted driver's licence, was five times over the legal alcohol limit for his age and had smoked the legal high Illusion. He was sentenced in November at the High Court in Hamilton to three years' jail for manslaughter.

May 29
21. Amanda Sharon Brunt, 32, of Hamilton was killed when her car crossed the centre line and smashed into another car.

Two men in the other car were seriously injured when the woman's BMW missed a corner on Hakarimata Rd, 5km north of Ngaruawahia, about 5pm.

May 30
22. Lodewyk Janssen, 65, was the only occupant of a vehicle travelling east on Kereone Rd near Morrinsville, when he lost control on a gentle right-hand bend.

June 1
23. Cyclist Thomas William Briggs, 57, died at a roundabout on the corner of Wairere Drive and River Rd in Hamilton after passing a bus and crashing into a westbound rubbish truck that had the right of way.

June 7
24. Daniel Robert Colvin, 37 of Hamilton died after his Mitsubishi utility crossed the centre line into the path of an oncoming truck and trailer unit about 300m from the intersection of State Highway 1 and Racecourse Rd.

June 30
25. Shaun Malthus, 13, was struck down by a car as he crossed Ruakura Rd, near the entrance to Innovation Park, about 8.15am on June 30 while walking to school.

His whanau kept a round-the-clock vigil at his bedside in Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit but he died 10 days later.

July 7
26. John Wayne Edwards, 26, Hamilton and Brendon Hadleigh Robinson, 21, of Te Kowhai were killed when the car Edwards was driving collided with a utility vehicle on State Highway 39, northwest of Hamilton.

Police said initial indications were the speed the vehicle was travelling at in the wet conditions played a major factor in the crash. "Neither man was wearing a seat belt which contributed to their non-survivable injuries."

July 12
27. Leslie Robyn Aitken, 58, was struck down and killed by a car on the outskirts of Hamilton. She had attended her own son's funeral less than a week earlier.

Police said Aitken, visiting from Australia, had stepped outside "to go for a walk, for a breather" when she was hit by a northbound car on State Highway 1B near Gordonton about 9.10pm in view of her family.

This crash in Leamington claimed the life of 17-year-old Shannon Waaka in November and put three of his relatives in hospital.

August 14
28. Gillian Welch, 67, was heading back to her Ngatea home when she collided, head-on, with another vehicle on a straight stretch of road.

The road was closed for about three hours as the serious crash unit investigated. Impeding police inquiries was the fact there were no witnesses. The driver of the other vehicle suffered minor injuries but could not remember what happened.

August 21
29. A head-on collision which claimed the lives of two women may have been caused by a driver having a diabetes-related illness attack.

Christine McRobbie, 68, and Majorie West, 85, died after the crash at 4.15pm on Gordonton Rd near Taupiri.

August 29
30. Maxwell Tahapehi, 52, who was thrown from his vehicle's cab before it rolled over and crushed him, was probably not wearing his seatbelt, police said.

Waihi police senior sergeant Rex Knight said Tahapehi was travelling to Taupo with a truck laden with goods including beer, alcoholic spirits and eggs.

September 5
31. David Mark Hutching, 49, had been riding motorbikes for most of his life and had just bought a 992cc Ducati when tragedy struck.

The computer engineer had finished IT maintenance work in Hamilton and was on his way home to Auckland when he collided with a motorist pulling out from a Te Rapa business on to State Highway 1 on Monday morning.

He suffered critical head injuries, and remained on life support at Waikato Hospital until it was switched off three days later. He died shortly afterwards.

September 6
32. A motorist dialled 111 to alert police to two elderly women driving their car the wrong way down a Waikato highway - then relayed news of the head-on crash that killed them moments later.

Eunice Griffiths, 82, and passenger Vina Wills, 81, both of Huntly, were killed when they collided with a vehicle as they drove the wrong way on the Waikato Expressway near the Ohinewai interchange on-ramp on State Highway 1.

September 11
33. Police said the car of Hamilton nursing student Stephanie Bates, 20, spun out as it rounded a slight, right-hand bend near Te Awamutu and its passenger side crashed into a ute. Bates worked at Foundation Bar at Te Awa and was just about to graduate from her nursing course, according to a close friend.

September 12
34. William Povi Stock, 53, died after a car hit him on State Highway 2 just south of Waihi. He was wearing dark clothing and walking on the section of State Highway 2 near Baxter Rd, when he was hit by a car travelling south about 7.40pm.

October 2
35. Avid cyclist Rowan Humffreys, 27, died after being struck by a taxi and dragged a short distance in central Hamilton. Medical staff from nearby Anglesea Clinic went to Humffreys' aid but he died at the scene.

October 6
36. Student Warren Deane, 42, jumped on a fleeing car as he tried to stop a man illegally dumping rubbish but fell off and suffered critical injuries. The Waikato University student died five days later in Waikato Hospital.

October 24
37. Ngaruawahia man Geoffrey William Druce, 56, died from head injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash at Labour Weekend.

Waikato road policing manager inspector Leo Tooman said Druce was riding his Ducati motorcycle east on Oparure Rd near Te Kuiti when he failed to negotiate a moderate right hand bend and struck gravel before colliding with a fencepost.

October 31
38. Shannon Robert Waaka, 17, died when the car he was driving collided with a power pole on Browning St in Leamington. Three passengers, all relatives of his, were in the car and were taken to Waikato Hospital. A police statement said Waaka was breaching the conditions of his restricted licence when the accident happened.

November 25
39. Rachel Lee Wallace, 37, was taking her son Lochie, 3, to kindergarten when the car she was driving collided with a truck west of Huntly.

Police investigating the crash said it appeared she lost control of the car as she rounded a bend. Lochie died at the scene. His mum was flown in the Westpac Waikato air ambulance to Waikato Hospital, but died later.

November 28
40. Lola May Robinson, 82, knew the roads between Hamilton and Tauranga "like the back of her hand". She was only minutes into her journey when she drove through a stop sign at the intersection of Morrinsville Rd and Ruakura Rd and was struck by a truck heading towards Hamilton.

December 3
41. Banned motorist Jarrad Malcolm Townsend, 32, was driving a light truck when he collided with another light truck driven by Hugh Leonard Ferguson, 61, near Hamilton. Both men were killed at the scene. Police are investigating a white substance found in Townsend's vehicle.

December 8
42. New father Gene Stantiall, 26, was on his way home from a game of social cricket to see his partner and 3-week-old son when his car hit a bank, rolled and hit a power pole at a rural intersection east of Waharoa. Stantiall got out of his car but died at the scene.

December 17
43. Seth Mariu, 17, was travelling from Hamilton to Taumarunui to pick up his father for a church service in Raetihi when his Subaru Impreza collided with a northbound BMW on SH4, about 20km southeast of Te Kuiti in wet conditions. Police said they found an open Bible on the front passenger seat.

December 25
44. Jasmine Wairingiringi Gray, 52, had just left a family gathering on Christmas Day when she walked on to the road and was hit by a courier van.

She and husband Ivan were only 200m away from the Christmas celebrations when the accident occurred. Conditions were fine and police say alcohol and speed did not contribute to the accident.

- Additional reporting by Andrew Koubaridis

- NZ Herald

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