Taharoa town locals in despair after much-loved teen's death in quad bike crash

The dunes where the teenage girl died in a quad bike crash can't be seen from the road, but run parallel to the mine access road. Photo / Belinda Feek
The dunes where the teenage girl died in a quad bike crash can't be seen from the road, but run parallel to the mine access road. Photo / Belinda Feek

A Taharoa teenager killed after the quad bike she was on crashed, also seriously injuring her passenger, was a safe driver, locals say.

The tight-knit ironsands mining community is in shock as it deals with yet another death after the slaying of Mona Tuwhangai, 82, and Maurice O'Donnell, 72, by fugitive Ross Bremner earlier this month.

For a town that holds just a couple of hundred to its name, it's a lot of despair to deal with in such a short time.

The young girl who died was also understood to have been driving when it crashed.

Her injured passenger, understood to be her niece, remains in Waikato Hospital.

The circumstances of the crash are as yet unclear as it appears neither the police serious crash unit or Worksafe will have any involvement.

It's likely to be dealt with as a sudden death as the incident didn't happen on a road, rather on private land.

Her body is being released back to family today and it is understood she will then be taken to Te Koraha Marae, which is not far from where she died.

A blessing was this morning also performed at the crash site.

Whatever the circumstances, locals say it doesn't appear either rider was wearing a helmet, which wasn't surprising to anyone spoken to in the town.

Grant Huggins, manager of NZ Steel, which has the lease to all of the land in the town for their ironsands mining operation, said they've been trying to educate the importance of wearing helmets while riding motorbikes and quad bikes, even holding competitions for the town's younger residents.

Huggins said some of his crew, along with many locals, raced to the scene to help out, providing lighting assistance as well as use of their helicopter pad for the Taupo Greenlea Rescue Helicopter to pick up the survivor.

He said the plan is to eventually fence off the mine access road in a bid to force locals to use the road and, together with educating them around road safety, will hopefully make the community a bit safer.

Others spoken to in the community said the victim was a much-loved teen who was quiet and unassuming.

They also said she was a safe driver and doubted she would have been speeding, and perhaps more likely caught out by the terrain.

Either way, the family are understandably distraught and a relative approached by the Herald didn't want to comment.

Given most, if not all of the community, have jobs at the ironsands mine, everyone knew everyone but Huggins said they had enough staff to get by in tragedies such as last night's.

The teen's death isn't the first, and some say, won't be the last until more importance and focus is put around the use of helmets.

- NZ Herald

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