Hamilton horror crash 'absolute tragedy'

By Catherine Gaffaney, Belinda Feek

Hannah Strickett has been remembered as an "amazing person with a heart of gold" who loved being a mother. Photo / Facebook
Hannah Strickett has been remembered as an "amazing person with a heart of gold" who loved being a mother. Photo / Facebook

The families of the four young people who died in a horror crash near Hamilton are beginning to pay tribute to their loved ones.

At least two of the people who died in the crash were parents of young children - including a young mum who was last night remembered as having a "heart of gold".

Hamilton woman Hannah Lei Strickett-Craze, 24, the mother of a son, Levi, 4, and 20-year-old Te Awamutu man Paul De Silva - the father of a 2-year-old son, Cosmo - died after their northbound white Nissan Skyline collided with a southbound Hamilton Plumbing Company van on Ohaupo Rd, outside Hamilton Airport, about 10pm on Friday.

Lance Robinson, 28, of Te Awamutu, and Jason McCormick Ross, 19, of Stratford, who were in the Skyline also died, and the driver of the van was in hospital last night. Robinson is believed to be the owner of the Skyline.

Paul De Silva, the father of a 2-year-old boy. Photo / Facebook
Paul De Silva, the father of a 2-year-old boy. Photo / Facebook

Amber De Silva said her nephew, Paul, was a "gorgeous, loving, generous kid.

"He was always happy and always cheeky. He was a really, really good dad and absolutely in love with his son.

"He was really tight with his family and had been doing really well lately."

Paul was brought up by his grandparents, with help from his uncles, Les and Livai.

"His uncles were his father figures. He looked up to them a lot."

Paul was a farmhand and sharemilker. He had recently returned to Te Awamutu from Taranaki and begun working on a farm in the area.

Mrs De Silva hoped to talk with Cosmo about Paul as he got older so he wouldn't forget his father.

Police last night confirmed an altercation took place between someone in the Skyline and the driver of another vehicle at a Te Awamutu petrol station shortly before the crash, and are investigating whether the car had been in a drag race.

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace said the crash was an "absolute tragedy and an avoidable tragedy". Strickett-Craze's friend, Melissa Wilson, last night told the Herald on Sunday Strickett-Craze was an "amazing person with a heart of gold" who loved being a mother.

"She was friends with everyone. She was really outgoing, always keen to do things," she said.

"Her son was a massive part of her life. She always taking him places and doing things with him."

The pair became friends in Invercargill where they both studied beauty therapy at the Southern Institute of Technology. Strickett-Craze also studied massage therapy.

Strickett-Craze moved back to the Waikato after her studies to be close to her family.

"She had a passion for beauty therapy," Wilson said. "She seemed to manage the courses and Levi really well. I have so many good memories with her."

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Another of Strickett-Craze's friends, Chloe Binns, said she was "one of the true beautiful souls in this world.

"She walked into a room and brought a smile to everyone's face.

"She was a daughter, a friend and a mother to a cheeky delight, Levi. I know I speak for many when I say she will be dearly dearly missed."

Binns said she and Robinson were in a relationship and living together.

Paul De Silva's friend, Nic Hickmet, said the Te Awamutu man was a loving father who always had a "huge goofy grin" on his face. "[He was] always having a laugh and always down for a good time."

Hickmet's mother, Rebecah Gerard, said De Silva was a sensitive and kind man who treasured his friends. "He would always go the extra mile for [his friends]."

The scene of a fatal accident near Hamilton Aiport on State Highway 3. Photo / Supplied
The scene of a fatal accident near Hamilton Aiport on State Highway 3. Photo / Supplied

Witness Steve Hartland, who lives close to the crash site, saw the Skyline and another car drag racing before the sickening sound of the crash, which ripped the Skyline in half.

"I could actually hear them going nuts coming down the road - that's what got my attention so I went up to have a look.

"The Skyline was on the wrong side of the road and he slid sideways and collected the van."

Hartland said the back half of the Skyline was wedged into the airport's security fence and the other half was left on the road.

He heard a car with a loud exhaust leave the scene before he reached the roadside carnage. "There was another car involved," he said.

Police were yesterday piecing together the moments leading up to the tragedy.

Grace said police were appealing to anyone who saw a white Nissan Skyline and any other car that was with it driving between Te Awamutu and Ohaupo village between 9.30pm and 10pm on Friday.

She was a daughter, a friend and a mother to a cheeky delight, Levi.
Chloe Binns

She said there was "illegal street racing" on Waikato streets but police were working with those involved.

"There is illegal street racing activity. I don't know if you can describe it as drag racing, but we are working with that group.

"We're very concerned about speed and are working with NZ Transport Authority and regional council about speed management for the Waikato district.

"It's just a matter of physics that the faster you go the bigger the mess."

Anyone who saw the Skyline and another car on Friday night is asked to contact Waikato Police on 07 858 6200 and ask for the District Command Centre.

- Herald on Sunday

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