They are the thin blue line, the people we call when tragedy strikes on our roads. But for Southern police, attending and investigating crashes takes a heavy toll. Daisy Hudson talks to two officers about their roles and how they cope with road deaths.
Tony Woodbridge can still vividly recall the first fatal crash he attended.
It has been nearly three decades since the Oamaru sergeant joined the police, but the details of that first scene roll off his tongue as if it were yesterday.
It was a man on a motorbike who collided with a four-wheel-drive. He remembers the exact location, and the exact injuries.
In a sad coincidence, the crash happened on Dunedin's Northern Motorway, near Waitati, the same location as a fatality last week.
Sgt Woodbridge has spent 27 years in the police, working everywhere from Christchurch to Dunedin and more than a decade in Oamaru.
He still finds crash deaths gut-wrenching.
In a small community, everyone knows everyone.
That's often a good thing — until you have to inform a friend that their loved one has died.
"Every time you get a call to go to a crash, you're thinking 'who this time?"' he says.
Last year he was called to a crash where his stepson's father-in-law died. The man's son, who saw it happen, had played in a rugby team he coached.
In March 2011, he was called out in the middle of the night to a crash just south of Hampden.
A car and truck had collided, and the truck had burst into flames.
"I got down there and I could see that it was a Waitaki District Council car. I work closely with all the staff there.
"The young guy involved in the crash, I knew him really well."
He was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital, but later died. The man in the truck died at the scene.
Later on that day, he received a call — it turned out he had prosecuted the truck driver's son while working in Christchurch.
Dealing with a crash is more than just investigating the scene. Police are investigating the death on behalf of the coroner. That means taking a body to a morgue, taking notes about the belongings, photographing injuries, and organising a postmortem.
For new staff, it can be tough.
"Seeing a dead body for the first time can be very traumatic and difficult."
Then there are the family members. Telling someone their loved one had died is a job that's impossible to explain, Sgt Woodbridge says.
"That's really, really tough. We're privileged to be able to do that and do it properly.
"When it's people you know, it rips you to pieces, too, but you've got to hold it together. It's putting dignity into the most undignified situation."
His years of experience mean he has plenty of crash memories to draw from. He could drive from Dunedin to Oamaru and talk through 20-30 fatal crashes along that stretch of road.
Every one is different, and every one is a huge loss, he says.
"A lot of people probably think of police officers and first responders as being quite hardened to these things. We're not. We take it home with us and we struggle with it."
He says he's lucky to have a good partner and family who will support him, and good systems within police. He has been sent for psychological debriefs several times — just talking it through helps.
Despite the trauma, it's a privilege to be part of a family's life at their worst time.
"We have the ability to help them with empathy and tell them the process and try to help them through.
"There's nothing in a crash that's logical."
He also keeps in contact with a lot of the families of those who have died.
Just last week he saw Kimberley Marris, the mother of Ruby Marris. Sgt Woodbridge, who was a friend of the family, attended the crash near Moeraki in February 2015 that killed the 5-year-old.
He remembers helping an ambulance officer to clean up the little girl before putting her in an ambulance.
The crash was caused by a foreign driver crossing the centre line and driving on the wrong side of the road.
Preventable crashes are a huge source of frustration.
At a serious crash he attended this year, in which a man and his son were lucky not to die, the man admitted using Facebook while he was driving, Sgt Woodbridge says.
Drink-drivers also have police in rural areas tearing their hair out.
"We do this job because we love helping people, and the biggest thing we can do is stop these crashes happening, stop our community from hurting, stop my community from losing their loved ones."
He has resigned himself to the fact he will more than likely be dealing with death in the coming weeks.
"I'm waiting, every shift at the moment, for the next tragedy."
He has a simple message for holidaymakers hitting the roads: have a look in the mirror.
"Everyone says it's everyone else driving out there. Have a look at yourself and your own actions.
"Don't think it's someone else's problem."