Two fatal crashes within hours in Northland

By Alexandra Newlove -
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Police attended the scenes of two fatal accidents in Northland at the weekend. PHOTO/FILE
Police attended the scenes of two fatal accidents in Northland at the weekend. PHOTO/FILE

Two Northlanders died in car accidents over the weekend, one of them a man who drowned after the van he was in was swept away by a rain-swollen creek.

Two men in their 50s left a house on State Highway 12 at Omanaia, 30km west of Kaikohe, just before 10pm on Saturday, and tried to cross a ford which usually allowed access across a creek between the house and road.

Serious crash investigator Senior Constable Warren Bunn said as the men went to cross the ford, their van was swept more than 100m downstream.

The driver managed to escape the vehicle with minor injuries. The passenger, from Omanaia, was found dead on the bank a short way from the van.

"The ford itself is easily passable but with the heavy rain, the van has entered it and been swept away," Bunn said.

Volunteer fire crews from Rawene were also at the scene. The station's chief fire officer Dave Williams described the downstream current as "pretty fierce" following heavy rain.

Williams said he knew the deceased, "a really, really nice guy". "We're a small community, so [knowing the victim] is something we deal with regularly," Williams said.

Bunn said it was not yet clear whether the death would be classed as a fatal car crash or a drowning. If it was included as a fatality it would take the region's toll to 24. This compared with 2015's 23 road deaths in the region.

Another man, age 19, died when the Toyota Hilux he was in crashed into a tree on State Highway 1 at Towai, just after midnight on Saturday. The ute was driven by a 21-year-old who lost control of the southbound vehicle as it rounded a corner, Bunn said.

The ute hit a tree and ricocheted about five metres down a bank, landing on its roof. The driver was able to free himself and flag down a passing car, Bunn said. He was later taken to Kawakawa Hospital in a serious condition.

Kaumatua had blessed both accident sites and the police's Serious Crash Unit was investigating. Both deaths had been referred to the coroner and next of kin were being notified yesterday.

Northland Duty Inspector Riki Whiu said his thoughts were with the families of the deceased men.

"Any death on our roads is a tragedy, and it's especially difficult for all of our staff to have two fatal crashes in the space of one night," Mr Whiu said.

Several animals were also injured in a crash at Tangiteroria on Friday just after 9pm.

Northern Fire Communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said a crew from Dargaville arrived to find up to 30 cows and a pig loose on State Highway 14 near Paradise Rd.

A car had crashed into several cows, killing one and breaking the legs of two others. The car then caught fire, though its occupants had already got out of the vehicle. The matter had been referred to animal control.

Rain stations at Ohaeawai and north of Dargaville recorded just over 60mm of rain between midnight Friday and yesterday afternoon. Kerikeri had 50.4mm, Whangarei 17.6mm, with stations near Kaitaia recording about 40mm.

This meant meaning slippery conditions and poor visibility for drivers.

Mr Whiu said: "Police wish to remind those travelling on our roads, in particular in such terrible driving conditions, to drive to the conditions and look after each other."

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