Wellsford death on tail of triple fatality near Dargaville, where white cross marks spot of another car crash.

One person has died after a three-vehicle crash which closed State Highway 1 for two hours yesterday.

The latest fatality about 6km south of Wellsford follows a "horrific" Queen's Birthday weekend on the roads where 11 people died in crashes over three days, the highest toll in 27 years.

In Northland, as volunteer firefighters worked under lights to free people trapped in a vehicle involved in a crash that killed three, they couldn't help but notice a white cross nailed to the tree marking a previous death at the same spot on the road.

Volunteers from Dargaville and Te Kopuru fire brigades were called to help after a four-wheel-drive ute carrying seven people crashed into a tree on Baylys Coast Rd, near Dargaville on Monday at 6.45pm.

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Police yesterday named the three people who were killed - Susanna Stewart, 48, from Paparoa, Sadie Stewart, 16, also from Paparoa, and 18-year-old James Wearmouth, of Maungaturoto.

Police confirmed the cross marked the death of a 39-year-old Dargaville man who died in December 1997.

In Pahiatua, near Masterton, career soldier Paul Simpson was left reeling yesterday after learning about the death of an injured driver whose hand he had held in the wreckage of a high-speed crash near Mt Bruce on Sunday.

The driver was retired Mangamaire storekeeper Eric Frank Bird, 77, who died in Wellington Hospital the previous day from injuries he received during the high speed head-on collision on SH2 just before noon Sunday that also claimed the life of the other driver, Rodger Barry James Chappell, 42.

Five people were involved in the crash. Mr Chappell died at the scene after being cut from his car and despite receiving CPR from paramedics.

Corporal Simpson said he stopped when he saw the accident and went to help.

"I went straight to the driver to see how he was and stayed with him. He told me his name was Eric."

The driver of the other damaged vehicle was trapped but conscious, Mr Simpson said, "because I could see his arms moving from where I was". He reassured Mr Bird paramedics were coming.

"We talked about where he was heading and whether he knew what had happened," Mr Simpson said. "I checked him over, and asked him if he could move his feet or feel any tingling or anything like that. I held his hand."

The worst Queen's Birthday weekend on the roads was in 1973, when 24 were killed.

Queen's Birthday weekend fatalities

Friday

• 5.45pm: Stuart Ernest Windle, 64, of Kaikoura died at the scene of a crash on SH1 north of Dunedin.

Saturday

• 5.30am: Anthony Tony Taki Pihema, 47, of Hamilton, died in a crash on SH3 between Te Kuiti and Piopio.

• 4pm: A motorcyclist died on Castlebane Dr in South Auckland when he drove into a parked car.

• 6pm: Noel Campilan, 46, died in a three-vehicle crash on SH1 at Greta Valley between Christchurch and Kaikoura when a car and truck collided. Four other people were injured.

Sunday

• 11.50am: Two men (named below) died following a two-vehicle crash on SH2, near Mt Bruce in northern Wairarapa.

Rodger Barry James Chappell, 42, from Dannevirke, died at the scene.

Eric Frank Bird, 77, from Pahiatua died on Sunday evening at Wellington Hospital.

• 3.15pm: Bharatbhai Patel, 51, of Rotorua, died when his car crashed into a tree on Dun Rd near Kaingaroa Forest.

Monday

• 3pm: Mark Anthony Taylor, 47, of Sydney, Australia, died when his motorcycle and a car crashed head-on on Harris Rd in Huntly.

• 6.45pm: Susanna Stewart, 48, and Sadie Stewart, 16, both of Paparoa, were killed in a crash on Baylys Coast Rd in Dargaville.

Another passenger - 18-year-old James Wearmouth, from Maungaturoto - also died.