As Sharron and Darryn Carnell lay in bed during the early hours, they heard a loud bang and knew exactly what it meant.

The couple live near the scene where Hina Kerei Johnson Hamahona, 25, died after smashing through a crash barrier protecting the approach to a bridge, near the intersection of Te Aute and Longlands roads, near Havelock North, yesterday.

The vehicle Mr Hamahona, of Flaxmere, was driving crashed through the barrier and smashed into the opposite bank of the Karamu Stream.

"We heard the bang. It sounded like someone had gone over [the bank]. Its not the first time it has happened here," Mrs Carnell said, looking at the scene yesterday afternoon.


Mr Carnell said: "Someones done it before hit the bank on the other side, but he was lucky, he survived."

"Its a l00km/h area. When its dark thats way too fast. It needs to be 80km/h."

"There's no way it should be 100km/h. Something has to change."

Police said it was understood the Flaxmere man was travelling to work at Johnny Appleseed just after 4am when he crossed the centre line and became airborne hitting the opposite bank, before rolling into Karamu Stream.

Mr Hamahona survived the initial impact and made a phone call, prompting his father and another family member to rush to the scene. However, they could not rescue him.

Emergency services were then called, arriving about 4.50am to find a vehicle submerged with the driver trapped inside.

Heavy lifting equipment was used to pull the crumpled wreck from the stream, closing the road for about five hours.

Mr Hamahonas family had made arrangements to have the site where he died blessed.


Marking the site yesterday was a makeshift sign with messages from work colleagues and his nickname Hammerhona written in highlighter pen.

A Johnny Appleseed spokesman described Mr Hamahona as a great employee who had been with the company for some months. Some of the staff have taken it very hard. Its one of those things its an absolute tragedy, he said.

Police Serious Crash Unit officers were investigating and said they hadn't ruled out factors such as speed, distraction and alcohol, because the incident occurred on a moderate bend and the driver was familiar with the road.

"Until we put it all together we are not going to know whether its [speed] we dont know we still have to do the calculations," crash investigator Senior Constable Chris Pye said.

A post-mortem examination would be carried out within the next couple of days.

Police Senior Sergeant Greg Brown said it was tragedy for the family, and a disappointing start to Road Safety Awareness week.

"No one should lose their life travelling to work and police would encourage drivers in general to watch their speed, pull over safely to answer any cellphone call, and drive to the conditions, he said. Obviously we will be out and about, but we want people to do the right thing all the time, not just when they think they will come across us."

Police were warning drivers approaching the bridge from the western side travelling toward Havelock North to be cautious until the barrier had been replaced.

A message on the Facebook page of the Ratana Maramatanga Sports Club, where Mr Hamahonas sister Angel Hamahona is chief executive, said his body would rest at the Ratana Fire Brigade when he returned home. At this stage, the whanau are not sure of when he will return, regardless of this they have decided he will lay in state for three days, it said.

As of yesterday the national road toll had increased to 105, three of those deaths happening within 24 hours of one another. Six have been in Hawkes Bay.