A mum and her young children were tossed through the air and left lying across a quiet country road after they were struck by an SUV in a "freak accident".
An 11-month-old baby boy is fighting for his life in Starship Hospital and his 2-year-old sister is in a serious but stable condition in Waikato Hospital after Monday's horror smash on Otamarakau Valley Rd. Their 33-year-old mother was yesterday in a stable condition in Tauranga Hospital.
The woman was pushing her children in a stroller on the side of the road when they were hit by an SUV towing a trailer, which veered off the road.
Rescuers described finding a wrecked pushchair on the side of the road and a mother so badly injured she could not reach her children.
Pukehina Volunteer Fire Brigade chief officer Errol Watts said the crash victims had ended up scattered many metres away from each other from the impact of the SUV ploughing into them.
"They had been thrown through the air. When we arrived, there was a pushchair that was pretty mangled on the side of the road.
"The woman was probably 10m away from it lying on the road. She was extensively injured so she couldn't move.
"Members of the public were holding the two children at that stage and a little bit further away from the woman."
Shane Beech, Maketu Community Board chairman and Maketu fire chief, said it was a freak accident and the mother appeared to have been doing everything right.
"I feel for the family involved. It was the wrong place at the wrong time on a very low-volume rural road."
Mr Beech said the mother had spoken to emergency services at the scene about her concerns for her husband, who was at work.
An Otamarakau Valley Rd resident, who did not want to be named, said he had regularly seen the mother and children walking along the road.
He believed the family had moved to the area about six months ago.
The man said the SUV driver was "a nice old bugger" who would be devastated at what had happened.
"He doesn't need that on his conscience. No one does. He's a good guy, he'll be hurting."
He said the mother had been doing everything right.
"She was just a million-to-one, wrong place wrong time."
The driver did not want to speak to the Bay of Plenty Times when approached yesterday.
Although investigations are still continuing, police believe fatigue may have been a factor in the crash.
Police said it was too early to know if charges would be laid.
"An investigation takes as long as an investigation takes," said a spokeswoman.
St John was not able to elaborate on any of the injuries.
- Additional reporting NZ Herald.