Te Kaha people reeling after fatal head on smash

By Gary Hamilton-Irvine

The death of a father in a head-on smash has sent shock waves through the small town of Te Kaha.

Dean Wiki August, 42, of Te Kaha, died when his utility and a 4WD vehicle carrying a family of seven smashed head-on near Te Kaha, north of Opotiki, on Friday night.

Mr August's 14-year-old son, Hurae, was yesterday in a critical but stable condition at Starship Hospital with a bad head injury.

Multiple rescue helicopters were needed to transfer eight of the nine victims to three different hospitals.

The seven family members in the 4WD vehicle escaped serious harm in the crash which happened about 9pm on Copenhagen Rd near Te Kaha.

The family of seven included Tessa Matchitt, 23, her partner, Ross Callaghan, 41, their 5-month-old son Te Aruhe, and Mr Callaghan's four older children.

Te Kaha's Tui Lodge manager Rex Carpenter told The Daily Post yesterday the death of Mr August was a big loss for the community.

"He was very well known, a very, very friendly fellow. He was in charge of the local transfer station and by all accounts he was a good worker."

He said Mr August's parents also lived in the small town.

BayTrust rescue helicopter pilot Barry Vincent from Rotorua said it was a "massive" rescue in a remote area. "The logistics of so many people injured in such a remote location was not easy. We don't get this sort of accident very often but, when we do, the outcomes could have been very different if they didn't have the helicopter resource."

Mr August's former partner, Tracy Tauteka, said he had been a good father to their four children. "We are waiting to go down for his funeral but they are going to hold it off because his son is still in hospital," she said.

Copenhagen Rd resident Alice Newth said the families in the two cars were related. "I was one of the first on the scene. An uncle to both families was there. He was pulling everybody out of the truck. Hurae wasn't in the ute, he was on the road," she said.

Mr Callaghan's mother, Arihia, said her husband Rangi was in shock after seeing the crash scene. "He was knocked to pieces. He only came home at 3.30am - devastated.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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