Family support for injured driver after early-morning tragedy on rural road

The driver of a van which crashed in heavy fog killing two of his friends was being comforted by family last night.

Former Kaipara College students Tye Gibbs and Ashley Walsh, who turned 20 in April, were killed when the van they were travelling in crashed on Old North Rd near Kumeu, West Auckland, at 2.30am yesterday.

The sole survivor, driver Joel Bowlin, had minor injuries.

Police said the van was travelling west when it came off the road.


Wheel marks were gouged into the ground, and a brick pillar and gate were knocked over beside the busy rural road.

The noise of the impact woke neighbours. Never Pausigere, 37, was asleep in a house across the road from the crash.

"I woke up when I heard a screeeching of wheels and then a bang. Then after a few minutes police cars came. They were really quick."

Pausigere got up to investigate.

"I saw a van over there upside down. The wheels up. It looked really badly damaged."

Occupants of another vehicle had stopped to help.

Fire and ambulance services and the police attended the accident.

Police spokeswoman Beth Bates said conditions at the time were foggy but it was too early to say what part the weather or poor visibility played in the crash.


Police were considering whether speed or alcohol were factors.

Bowlin, a drummer in several metal bands, was last night in a stable condition in a surgical ward at Auckland City Hospital.

The Muriwai Beach resident worked at Kumeu Plumbing, and the van he was driving bore the company's markings.

His sister, Tyneil Bowlin, posted on Facebook: "I'm grateful my brother still has a lot of support and such loyal friends.

"It's not an easy time for him or anyone but there's a lot of love and support going around. Rest in peace Ashley Walsh and Tye Gibbs, you will be surely missed and forever loved."

Another online tribute from Cameron McDonald said: "Today I lost a best friend and a brother, Words can't describe how much il miss you bro, but il meet you again one day, I just hope you're in a better place now."