A young Tongan family who moved to the West Coast for the promise of a better life have been torn apart just days before Christmas.

A 43-year-old mother and her 15-year-old son were killed when their car went over a bank and landed upside down in a creek as they drove through Taylorville shortly before 11am yesterday.

The woman's 4-year-old son, who was also in the car, was injured.

A relative, who did not want to be identified, said the family had moved to the West Coast from Tonga about seven years ago for work.


The mother's husband, who worked in forestry, had been on a job in Invercargill when he received the devastating news yesterday afternoon.

"He can't believe what happened; none of us can," the relative said.

The man was last night making his way home to Greymouth, where family members and dozens of people from the community had gathered at the Grey Base Hospital to offer their support.

The 4-year-old had bruises and scratches "but he's fine", the relative said.

The family did not know how the crash had occurred.

"They went out somewhere and they were on their way back and that's when the accident happened. That's all I know."

Sergeant Dave Cross of the highway patrol unit said it was wet and the vehicle was travelling downhill into a bend.

West Coast police area commander Inspector John Canning said the victims were from Cobden.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said locals would do their best to support the family.

- additional reporting Greymouth Star