A woman who witnessed this week's fiery fatal crash between Katikati and Tauranga also came across a horror smash that claimed her cousin and four others on the same road in 2016.

Fololeni Finau was travelling on State Highway 2 to Te Puna, north of Tauranga, on Monday when she came across a crash which claimed the life of a person police are still yet to identify.

The crash involved a car and large truck between Apata Station Rd and Pahoia Rd, shutting the state highway down for several hours.

Read more: Person killed in fireball crash on SH2
Read more: Meeting to be held over state of deadly stretch of SH2

Advertisement

Finau was travelling with her three children, aged 8, 6 and 5, to pick up her husband who had finished work early.

She said when she reached a small overbridge near Apata, she was forced to the side of the road when a car began to overtake.

"I was going 95km/h but this car, it was really out there. It was going really fast. I had to move over, but there was no room," she said.

"I said to my eldest to take down the number plate because I was going to drop it off to the police after."

Then the car crashed.

Finau said she believed the car tried coming back to the correct lane as an oncoming car approached, but it hit the side of the road, rebounded across the highway and into the side of the large truck.

"When it happened, I thought 'why us again?' But when I calmed down, I thought 'thank God', you know? He gave us another chance."

SHARE THIS QUOTE:

Finau slammed on her brakes. She and her children then saw the driver inside the mangled wreck of the car. He had already died, she said.

"There was no chance of him surviving. My daughter told me to 'go wake him up, look at the fire starting to spread'.

"I don't know at that point what I was thinking. I was so scared of getting out of my car. Everyone was helping. People ran in with fire extinguishers and tried to put it out, but it didn't work. It just created more smoke. It was three to four minutes, and the fire started to go up, then everything was gone.

"I feel sorry for the family."

Fololeni Finau was one of the first at the scene of a fiery crash on SH2. Photo /George Novak.
Fololeni Finau was one of the first at the scene of a fiery crash on SH2. Photo /George Novak.

The crash brought back painful memories for the Katikati mother, who was one of the first at the scene of a horror crash on the highway on August 2, 2016.

Finau was travelling on SH2 when a large truck crashed with a car carrying five Tongan men finishing their shift at Aongatete Coolstores - just kilometres from Monday's crash.

None survived. One was Finau's 21-year-old cousin, Sione Teulaka. She and her husband discovered this when he ran to the car to help.

"It took nearly a year-and-a-half for me to go through there okay. Every time I see a truck I freak out. I feel like closing my eyes whenever I go through there," Finau said.

"[This week's crash] brought back memories of that night," Finau said.

She said she has already received messages of support and counselling from emergency services and people in the community who, while helping at Monday's crash, recognised her name from the Aongatete tragedy.

Finau said she felt both lucky, and unlucky, for having witnessed two SH2 crashes and surviving.

"When it happened, I thought 'why us again?' But when I calmed down, I thought 'thank God', you know? He gave us another chance."

Head of Western Bay of Plenty road policing Senior Sergeant Mark Pakes said although the serious crash unit investigation was ongoing, the crash "definitely came about from poor choices and speed".

"From our point of view, I know State Highway 2 is a topical subject at the best of times, and we appreciate how busy the road is, but we ask people to slow down and be patient."