Horror day on Kiwi roads claims eight lives
A 2-year-old girl was plucked from a vehicle at a fiery crash on the outskirts of Tauranga that claimed three lives and injured seven.
A car and a van collided on State Highway 2 in Te Puna at about 7.30pm yesterday and burst into flames.
Inspector Willie Taylor, of the northern police communications centre, said: "It's a head-on collision. "As you can imagine it's a hugely traumatic scene. It's a multiple fatality. It's a difficult one for everyone attending."
A spokeswoman for the Bay of Plenty District Health Board confirmed a 2-year-old escaped with non-life threatening injuries.
The injured were five Aucklanders "including the toddler, a 15-year-old girl, a 29-year-old man, a 20-year-old woman and a 57-year-old woman" as well as 20-year-old Te Puna woman and a 41-year-old Gisborne man.
All patients this morning have since been treated and discharged from the hospital, except for the 20-year-old woman who remained in a stable condition, the spokeswoman said.
One of vehicles that caught fire was being followed by another car containing family members.
Tauranga Fire Brigade senior station officer Philip Price said both vehicles "fully involved".
"It was a very big fire. It had gone into the trees and flames were leaping into the air, between 8 and 10 metres [high]."
It took firefighters about five minutes to bring the fire under control and another 10 to dampen hot spots.
Peter Armstrong, who lives on Snodgrass Rd, near the crash site, was alerted to the tragedy when he saw trees on fire and heard the terror of those involved.
"I just heard a woman screaming down there ... for about five minutes she was screaming her head off."
The Bay of Plenty crash took the weekend's road toll to eight after three other crashes.
In Manawatu, police were last night appealing for the driver of a white van to come forward following a crash in which three people died and four others were taken to hospital. Two cars collided head-on at the intersection of State Highway 3 and Williamson Line, near Marton, about 4pm.
The dead included a 69-year female, a 41-year-old female and her 14-year-old son.
A police spokesman said last night the white van may also have been involved in the crash.
Meanwhile, in the early hours of yesterday morning a 54-year-old man died and a 55-year-old man was admitted to hospital after a car they were travelling in collided with a tree in Clevedon, south of Auckland.
The police serious crash unit is investigating. A man was also killed in a motorbike crash in Warkworth last night.