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James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Police dismayed by unrestrained babies in cars

The wreckage of the car involved in the crash at SH4 near Aria.
The wreckage of the car involved in the crash at SH4 near Aria.

A day after a baby died from her injuries after being thrown from her mother's lap in a car accident, a woman was seen breast-feeding her child in the front seat of a moving vehicle.

Alexandria "Lexie" Grace Navacilla died in Auckland's Starship children's hospital on Tuesday morning after suffering critical injuries in a car accident on State Highway 4 near Aria on Monday.

The 12-week-old was one of six people in a five-seater Honda hatchback car and was sitting unrestrained in her mother's lap in the backseat when the car they were in slid across the road into a bank. Police found her car seat, which could have saved her life, in the car boot.

Her parents, originally from the Philippines, were travelling from their home in Taumarunui to Auckland.

It is understood that Mr and Mrs Navacilla's flatmate, who was travelling in a separate car, was among the first on the scene at the time of the accident.

The woman, also a Filipino, took Alexandria to Te Kuiti Hospital before she was airlifted to Starship.

The Herald understands Alexandria's body was cremated yesterday. Neither Alexandria's father Titus nor her mother Gracie Gevera could be contacted for comment. but overseas family members overseas took to Facebook to express their sympathy.

Alexandria's aunty Mary Quicar Dir Verano said on Facebook "Baby Lexie is now in heaven, in the arms of the Lord. We all now have an angel".

It's unclear whether anyone will face charges as a result of Alexandria's death.

Yesterday police reported a woman breast-feeding a baby while in the front seat of a moving car in Hamilton. A police foot patrol tried to get to the vehicle before it left but the driver had gone.

The incident came after police stopped a woman driving in Hamilton on Tuesday who had two young children in the backseat who should have been in carseats but were instead strapped in with seatbelts.

Waikato Road Policing Manager Inspector Freda Grace said to hear of such incidents the day after Alexandria died was a bitter disappointment and she called on all motorists to reflect on their driving behaviour. "The mother, who was breaching the conditions of her learner driver's licence when stopped, told the officer that she was taking the 4- and 5-year-olds down the road to see a doctor and that she did have some car seats but her sister was using them," she said.

"Instead she put the kids in seatbelts which are totally inappropriate for young children such as these, and it's really disappointing that in the last 48 hours we've seen a baby die after being unrestrained in a car that crashed, this incident and reports of a woman today travelling as a passenger in a car breast-feeding an unrestrained baby in her lap."

Meanwhile, Mrs Grace said serious crash unit investigators were looking into the death of Beant Kaur, 22, on SH3 south of Ohaupo shortly before 6pm on Monday.

Ms Kaur's northbound yellow Mazda car crossed the centreline and collided with a car then three other vehicles, including a truck.

Family grieve for 'wonderful' woman

The grieving family of a Northland woman who was pinned by a car whose driver had wedged her jandal between the brake and accelerator has been described as a "wonderful woman".

Natalie Lauren Ahlers, 53, from Whangarei, was struck as she walked along Whangarei's Rurumoki St, near Mair Park, about 3.30pm on Sunday. She was taken to Whangarei Hospital but could not be saved.

Ms Ahlers' daughter, Chelsea, said it was a hard time for the family. "She was such a wonderful woman. It was just a freak accident." She said there had been no discussion about a meeting with the driver of the vehicle whose foot became stuck.

"It's still so fresh. Nothing like that will be looked at, at this stage. It's the last thing on our minds right now." Sarah Kennett, Northland police communications manager, said the tragedy unfolded after a Honda vehicle's front wheels rolled over a kerb on to the grass and became stuck. Members of the public came to help.

"There were bystanders pushing the car back on to the road, and the female driver had it in reverse. She was wearing jandals and they got stuck between the brake pedal and the accelerator. She couldn't stop it because her foot was stuck." As the car gained traction, it sped backwards.

"The car reversed and the woman got hit, and was pinned up against the car that was parked behind her." When asked how a jandal could get stuck between two pedals, Ms Kennett said: "No idea. That's the initial indication to what may have happened, but we obviously need to talk to parties who were there at the time to ascertain what did happen." Police are investigating the crash and whether charges will be laid.

-Derek Cheng

- NZ Herald

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